Could Trump win Minnesota for the 1st time in half a century?

'There's isn't a corner of the state that is uncovered,' said GOP chair Jennifer Carnahan during a Rochester visit.

GOP Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan poses for a portrait on Tuesday, September 8, 2020, in Rochester. (Traci Westcott /

Minnesota hasn't voted for a Republican president since 1972, when President Richard Nixon won it.

Could that change on Election Day?

We asked that question and others to Jennifer Carnahan, chairwoman of the Republican Party of Minnesota, who was in Rochester Monday as part of a Republican tour/get-out-the-message drive through southern Minnesota 56 days before the election.

Minnesota is key to Trump's re-election prospects, given that Democrat Joe Biden has an edge or is leading in polls of Midwestern states that delivered Trump the presidency in 2016. Voting in Minnesota begins next Friday.

The interview has been edited for length.


What makes you think Trump can win Minnesota? What are you seeing in terms of the president's investment in the state?

So, first of all, I'm sure you are aware in 2016, the president came within 1.5 points of winning the state. When you go back and look at 2016, there was no national investment. Minnesota was not on the map quite honestly for either party, because people have long considered Minnesota a blue state when it comes to presidential races.

But when the president came that close and there was less than $30,000 invested into Minnesota, that gave an indicator to the president. Every time I've had a chance to meet since then, July 17 was the first time, he had said to me in the Oval Office, "Jennifer, if I had come back to Minnesota one more time, I would have won it."

The Trump Victory staff is running the biggest field program that Republicans have ever seen in the history of Minnesota. There's not a corner of the state that isn't covered.

President Ronald Reagan formulated the threshold benchmark: If you can say that your life has improved over the last four years, you vote for the incumbent. Yet we live in the midst of a pandemic. The economy remains hobbled by it. A lot of people would say their lives aren't better. Isn't that a challenge for the president?

I don't think so. To your point when Reagan was saying, "Is your life better than it was four years ago?" Pre-pandemic, I think 90 percent of this country would say, yes, the economy is booming, more jobs were being created, and people were putting more money in their pockets. There was a vibrancy coming back to the economy with manufacturing and companies being able to reinvest in America. So the pandemic is not the president's fault.

But some people would say: We're 4.5 percent of the world's population, yet we account for 21 percent of its deaths. That suggests that managing the pandemic was bungled.

I don't agree with that. I don't think it's on the president at all. He came on very early, closed the borders with China. And when he did that, he was called a racist. In my opinion, to be a true leader, you have to be nimble, flexible and adaptable. And he was doing that. He was providing the resources to people, making sure early on that states had the ventilators when they needed them, that they had the appropriate equipment.


Where I think there have been mistakes made is in these governors with how they've chosen to handle the states. The people who don't like the president, yes, they will blame him. People who like him or who aren't all the way there with him, I don't think they blame him.

The president is alleged to have called America's war dead "losers" and "suckers," according to an article in the Atlantic. And portions of that report were confirmed by Fox News, which is usually sympathetic to the president. Do you think that will have resonance for voters, particularly those in the veterans community?

No, because I think veterans -- and the men and women that serve our country -- know that their commander-in-chief stands behind them 1,000 percent. There are certain people out there that don't like our president, and a lot of the media organizations are part of that. And it continues to show itself through stories, whether or not they are true.

A question about U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn (Hagedorn, a first-term Republican House member, is Carnahan's husband). An internal review (conducted by lawyer hired by Hagedorn) showed that printing contracts went to a staff member and possibly the brother of the chief of staff (since fired). Has Rep. Hagedorn been damaged by these revelations going into the election?

I'll let him speak for himself as it relates to his office, because I don't have any involvement with his official side. I don't think he's damaged going into the election. I think he's worked incredibly hard for this district for two years. I think that's going to stand out in people's minds more than what's going on in his office.

Matthew Stolle has been a Post Bulletin reporter since 2000 and covered many of the beats that make up a newsroom. In his first several years, he covered K-12 education and higher education in Rochester before shifting to politics. He has also been a features writer. Today, Matt jumps from beat to beat, depending on what his editor and the Rochester area are producing in terms of news. Readers can reach Matthew at 507-281-7415 or
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