Story published: September 21, 2020

It hasn’t happened before: Both presidential candidates visited the state on the same day. Republican President Donald Trump and former Democratic Vice President-turned-Democratic candidate Joe Biden appeared just hours apart in Minnesota, something that no one can recall occurring in in our history. It’s emblematic of the battleground status of the state that has voted Democratic for president for a generation – and yet, Trump came close in 2016.

It’s the first official visit to Minnesota for Biden since he became the Democratic nominee.  “Hello Minnesota, I’ve been to the Iron Range a number of times, it’s a magnificent part of the world,” said Biden in Duluth. Polls show the Democrat pulling ahead of Trump, who performed well in rural sections of the state four years ago. Early voting began in Minnesota on September 18, the same day of the double candidate visit.

“I’m thrilled to be back in great state of Minnesota,” declared President Trump, who has also visited Duluth. It was his first stop to a state he didn’t win after being elected president back in 2016, when he noted that he lost by just one-and-a-half percentage points. “I came this close in Minnesota,” he said. This time, the president touched down in Bemidji, a legislative district that has a DFL state representative and a GOP senator, so it is an incredibly competitive area.

“It is definitely a purple district; it is very competitive right now, competitive on all levels, whether it’s the president or all the way down to the city council races. That’s part of the reason why you see the president coming in here, and no sitting president has ever come to Bemidji, which I think is enticing for him as well,” said Sen. Justin Eichorn (R-Grand Rapids). The senator flipped a seat that had been held by a Democrat.

Meanwhile, the DFL House member won by just 11 votes in 2016. “A lot of issues remain the same. I can go back to when I first ran in 2008 and look back at education and health care. Some of the [issues] don’t go away,” said Rep. John Persell (DFL-Bemidji) who disagrees with Sen. Eichorn’s assertions that defunding police is a top issue in the area, adding, “If you didn’t take away something totally bizarre from seeing George Floyd murdered in front of you, then you aren’t living and you certainly aren’t living on the good side.”

Say tuned to Almanac on TPT2 Fridays at 7 pm and again on Sundays at 9:30 am for ongoing coverage of the upcoming November election.

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A historic number of people is expected to vote by mail this November 2020, yet a top election official says that Minnesota might not look all that different. Political reporter Mary Lahammer interviewed Joe Mansky, who worked for decades in state and local elections offices, and agrees that the amount of national attention Minnesota is seeing in the presidential race is unusual. 

Mary Lahammer offers this roundup of the Republican National Convention, which was held both virtually and in-person, as well as the Democratic National Convention, which unfolded virtually.

George Floyd’s police killing has brought together communities in a show of resilience – but it’s also revealed deep-seated racial inequities in access to healthy food now that the Lake Street area, where many grocery stores were damaged or destroyed, has become a food desert. Almanac reporter Kyeland Jackson examines how that lack of food access is actually rooted in racism-charged issues related to access to jobs and opportunities to build wealth.