Joe Biden carried Minnesota on Tuesday, erasing one of President Donald Trump’s few opportunities on the electoral map to play offense in a state he lost in 2016.
Minnesota hasn’t gone for a Republican for president since Richard Nixon in 1972, but Trump fixated on the state after narrowly losing to Hillary Clinton there in 2016. If he had only visited the state one more time that year, he said repeatedly, he would have won.
Yet Minnesota always seemed to be a taller lift for Trump this year. The race was close in 2016 not because Trump was especially popular, but because Clinton wasn’t, badly underperforming former President Barack Obama’s vote totals there. Especially in rural areas of the state, Biden was viewed as a far more palatable nominee — less like Clinton than like Gov. Tim Walz, who won statewide in 2018 by more than 11 percentage points.
For months this year, the state ran hot and cold, sometimes looking like a swing state and sometimes seemingly out of reach for Trump. After the race began to narrow there this summer, Biden poured millions of dollars into the state, out-advertising Trump on TV.
Still, Trump kept up his campaign in the state, appearing twice in northern Minnesota during the fall and, after pulling back spending there for weeks, announcing 12 days before the election that he was adding advertising and making a renewed run at the state.
Biden sought to draw a connection to the region through his roots in working-class Scranton, Pa. Appearing at a union training center last month outside of Duluth, on the tip of Lake Superior, Biden said that like where he came from, “Here in the Iron Range, we can see the resilience and the grit, the communities that built America, the mettle they’re made of.”
Trump’s hope was to limit losses in the Twin Cities and their suburbs while expanding turnout in rural, western reaches of the state and in northeastern Minnesota. The state’s heavily white population — including hundreds of thousands of white people without college degrees who were eligible but not registered to vote — offered Trump one of his best opportunities to build his base.
In his appearances and rallies in the state, Trump leaned heavily into Minnesota’s urban-rural divide, particularly in the heavily working-class Iron Range. He aired ads claiming “lawless criminals” had terrorized Minneapolis following the death of George Floyd. And the president mocked Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar, a former refugee from a Minneapolis-based district, saying Biden would “turn Minnesota into a refugee camp.”
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