Story published: October 5, 2020

President Donald Trump tested positive for the coronavirus the day after visiting Minnesota, where he met with Republican legislative leaders and three Minnesota members of Congress, who flew with him on Air Force One before Trump appeared in front of thousands. Prior to his diagnosis, we spoke with local experts about the political change in the Northland.

University of Minnesota-Duluth Political Science Professor Cynthia Rugeley says of the president’s return to Minnesota, “One, I think he’s trying to piece together enough votes for 270 [electoral votes needed to win]. And secondly, I think that after 2016, he said he was going to turn Minnesota to red, and I think it’s really become an issue of pride for him.”

Duluth itself is still a DFL town, but the rest of the Northland has politically moved more to the right – and people in this region vote at astounding rates. Aaron Brown from Minnesota Brown is considered an expert on the politics of the area. “It’s not unusual to see a place like Chisholm – I don’t have the number right in front of me – but they’re typically over 90% voter turnout,” Brown adds that the votes in the Iron Range are not enough to close the 2016 margin when Trump lost to Hillary Clinton by just 1.5% of the vote.

The Northland didn’t just move Republican overnight; it’s a shift that’s been happening for some time, forecasted by 8th District Democratic Congressman Jim Oberstar’s surprise defeat in 2010 when he was the longest serving member of Minnesota’s delegation. “A reminder it’s more than Duluth and Range, southern exurbs. ” adds Brown, “more people in 8th District live south of Duluth than north of Duluth.”

“One kind of reminder for this district is that was more than Duluth and the Range… More people of the 8th District live south of Duluth than who live north of Duluth,” Brown explains.

The 2020 election season is shaping up to be one for the record books on so many levels. Stay tuned to Almanac, which airs on Friday nights at 7 pm on TPT2, for ongoing coverage and context about what’s happening in Minnesota. 

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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. 

In late September, history was again made in Minnesota: Both candidates for president visited the state on the same day, suggesting that Minnesota may just be a battleground state as we head into the November election. Mary Lahammer offers this report on what to make of that September day.