Sen. Amy Klobuchar may have to eat her words after declaring last year that Donald Trump will ‘never win Minnesota’. A new Emerson College poll released Tuesday shows the President trailing Joe Biden by just three percentage points.
The poll has Trump within the margin of error, meaning the state is effectively a toss-up at this point. The President is reportedly planning to visit the state on Monday in an attempt to provide counter-programming for the Democratic National Convention, which was meant to take place across the state line in Wisconsin, and to capitalize on his recent gains in the polls.
The prospect of winning Minnesota is certainly giddying for Trump, who frequently laments that he just barely lost the state in 2016. Hillary Clinton carried the state by a mere 1.5 percentage points despite the fact that the Trump campaign spent only $30,000 there and had practically zero ground game. It was a worrying sign for Democrats, as Minnesota has long been considered a reliable place for them to pick up 10 electoral college votes: the last Republican presidential candidate to win there was Richard Nixon in 1972. Conversely, to Trump, it presented a welcome challenge, and his 2020 campaign has been dumping money and hiring staff in Minnesota for months.
Initially, it didn’t seem that the campaign was making much progress. A combination of low approval of the administration’s handling of the coronavirus, the economic shutdown, and nationwide riots after George Floyd was killed by a police officer in Minneapolis, severely damaged Trump in most swing state polls, not just Minnesota. In June and July, the RealClearPolitics average had Biden up as much as 8.5 percentage points in Pennsylvania and 8.6 in Michigan. A Fox News poll conducted between July 18 and 20 had Trump trailing Biden by 13 points in Minnesota. Those states’ polls have tightened as the economy has started to recover over the past months, returning the margins closer to what they were back in March and April. If the economy continues its rise, it will be at a huge benefit to Trump, whose strategy in those swing states has been to push for high turnout in rural counties.
The Trump campaign is also hoping to tap into a lack of faith in local Democratic leadership in the suburbs of the Twin Cities. The President described Jacob Frey as ‘a very weak radical left mayor’ during the riots and denied Gov. Tim Walz’s request for federal funds to rebuild the city.
Incumbency has both pros and cons for Trump in Minnesota. One of the reasons he was able to get so close to Clinton in 2016 is that Democratic turnout was low. However, he now has to go up against a Democratic base that is energized by the idea of voting out a President who managed to survive impeachment. At the same time, Trump was hurt in the last election by the six percent of voters who went for right-of-center third party alternatives. Since then, Trump has managed to lock up support among the Republican party and won’t have the likes of Evan McMullin and Gary Johnson swiping his voters at such high rates.
Minnesota is by no means a lock, but the Emerson poll is very encouraging for the Trump campaign. If all goes according to their plan, Klobuchar will need to find a comb to eat her crow.