BEMIDJI, Minn. — Minnesota is a battleground state in the 2020 election, and President Donald Trump is hoping Beltrami County will help flip it red in November.
The president will now be speaking at Bemidji Aviation Services at the airport at 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 18. That is two hours later than originally scheduled. Doors open at 3 p.m., the campaign announced Monday, Sept. 14.
Speaking to Forum News Service, a senior campaign official noted Trump's existing support in Minnesota and said the president's visit to Bemidji is to create an opportunity for more of those backing the re-election bid to hear him speak. The official also cited Beltrami's status as one of the Minnesota counties that flipped in 2016, with the net swing being nearly 4,500 votes.
During Trump's Bemidji visit, the campaign official said audience members can expect an "America first" message on trade and foreign policy. The official said the president is also expected to speak about contrasts between his and Democratic candidate former Vice President Joe Biden's economic agendas. Biden is also scheduled to campaign in Minnesota on Friday.
Bemidji City Manager Nate Mathews said in most cases large events held within city limits require a permit. However, the presidential visit was scheduled without the city's knowledge, Mathews said. With the event now on the calendar, Mathews said the city will work hard to ensure the day goes smoothly.
"We're going to be busy as a city and we're going to be working with our partners like the State Patrol, Beltrami County and MnDOT," Mathews said. "There's a lot of jurisdictions communicating right now. It's a private event, so we're not in charge of what's going on inside the perimeter, but for the guests and visitors who come here, we will work to make sure traffic control is managed well and that it's a safe environment for the public."
The Bemidji Police Department has been working closely with the Secret Service to ensure the safety of all during Trump’s visit, according to a news release from Bemidji Police Chief Mike Mastin.
Mastin told Forum News Service that he hopes everyone will avoid conflict in the name of public safety.
“With any political event we anticipate that there will be attendees who support the speaker and there will be attendees who do not,” Mastin said. “I hope that everyone can recognize there are different points of view and we can all be respectful and safe. Safety is our No. 1 priority for all people that are attending this event. We want to make sure we have a good experience, that everyone is safe.”
During its meeting Monday night, the Bemidji City Council authorized a mutual aid agreement, allowing regional law enforcement agencies to assist the Bemidji Police Department in maintaining public safety during the president's visit.
“By far this is the largest-scale event that we have had to plan for,” Mastin said of the presidential visit. “We plan for all events that we believe are going to draw large crowds, and this summer has been no exception. We try not to focus on the subject matter, because we are a neutral party, and we try to treat every group as fairly as we can.”
While the Trump campaign’s event announcement made no mention of requiring face masks, Mastin reminded residents in the release that, “Minnesota Governor’s Order 20-81 requires face coverings and social distancing.”
Looking at the numbers
Before Trump's 2016 victory, the last Republican candidate to win Beltrami County was President George W. Bush in 2000, who earned 8,346 votes, besting Vice President Al Gore, who received 7,301. In that election, the Green Party ticket with Ralph Nader and Winona LaDuke of the White Earth Nation also had a relatively good showing in Beltrami with 1,269 votes.
In 2004, Democrat John Kerry earned 10,592 votes, ahead of Bush, who received 10,237. In 2008, President Barack Obama won the county with 12,019 votes, ahead of Republican candidate John McCain, who earned 9,762. For 2012, Obama won Beltrami County again with 11,818 votes, finishing ahead of Republican candidate Mitt Romney with 9,637 votes.
The county flipped in the next election, with Trump receiving 10,783 votes to win Beltrami over Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
Trump has already been on the campaign trail in the state, making a stop at Mankato's airport in August.
Those interested in attending the "Great American Comeback" events can register for tickets on the Trump campaign website, events.donaldjtrump.com.