Thousands filled the Target Center in Minneapolis on Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019, to hear President Donald Trump in a campaign rally. Dana Ferguson / Forum News Service

MINNEAPOLIS — President Donald Trump railed against Democrats pursuing his impeachment and stumped for his reelection Thursday night, Oct. 10, in Minnesota.

At a rally of nearly 20,000 people at the Target Center, the president vouched for his call with the president of Ukraine — the subject of the impeachment inquiry — and warned of what might happen if Minnesota voted him out in 2020.

It was the president's first public rally since the launch of the impeachment investigation, and it took place in the district of one of his top political foes — U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar. The rally generated strong support in the arena and around it, as supporters filled most of the arena and stood outside to watch the address. Thousands of protesters, meanwhile, filled the streets around the arena to oppose the president, several of whom interrupted his speech and were removed.

The appearance came as national polls showed growing support for impeachment, with a Fox News poll announced Wednesday indicating 51% of voters would like to see the president impeached and removed from office.

Hours ahead of Trump's visit to Minneapolis, two men who worked with Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani were arrested on campaign finance charges.

Trump called the inquiry an "insane impeachment witch hunt” and warned that Democrats would see a swift response in 2020 if they followed through with the probe.

“There's going to be a backlash at the ballot box the likes of which they’ve never seen," Trump said.

Trump decided to rally in Minneapolis before House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., launched impeachment proceedings. But at the event, Trump pleaded his case to a room of supporters, saying his actions on the phone call were not out of line.

For more than an hour, Trump spoke about the impeachment effort, recounted his 2016 election win and took digs at Democrats, including Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and Omar. He, along with some allies, vouched for his accomplishments in the White House.

Minnesota hasn't backed a Republican nominee for president since 1972, when then-President Richard Nixon edged out Democrat George McGovern. The state has the longest streak of supporting Democratic presidential candidates in the country.

Trump is eager to snap that streak in 2020.

Ahead of the rally, the president's reelection campaign deployed allies to stoke support and train volunteers in the state. The night before the rally, Karen Pence and Trump's daughter-in-law Lara Trump met with more than 200 women and a few men at the Union Depot in St. Paul for a campaign conversation billed as a "Women for Trump" panel.

Vice President Mike Pence made an appearance earlier in the day at a business in Lakeville, part of the state's 2nd District, which flipped from red to blue in 2018.

The special attention to the state and news from the campaign that it intends to pour tens of millions of dollars into Minnesota and post dozens of staff in the state generated a strong sense of confidence for Republicans heading into 2020 and some concern from Democrats.

“We have an incredible opportunity in 2020 to turn that tide because, in Minnesota, we have not given our electoral votes to a Republican candidate for president since 1972,” Minnesota Republican Party Chair Jennifer Carnahan said. “Well, that is going to change in 2020. We are going to work together as a team to fight for the American dream.”

Minnesota Democrats this week acknowledged that they'll have a tough time matching the fundraising power the president carried into the state with him. Without a candidate slated to challenge Trump, they've not had the same unified support. But a social media fundraising effort helped the state DFL rake in more than 1,000 contributions by mid-week and ginned up support from several celebrities.

Democratic Party leaders on Thursday said they were using the president's appearance to generate support with voters.

“Rather than give oxygen to the incomprehensible lies he’ll undoubtedly spew, DFLers will be spending the day talking to voters and canvassing in neighborhoods across the state," DFL Chair Ken Martin said in a news release. "Donald Trump’s agenda of broken promises will yet again lead him to lose Minnesota and bring down his Republican enablers along the way.”

Democrats swung back on social media during the president's speech and in appearances earlier in the day. Omar on Twitter said the comments deriding voters in the region for electing her and calling her a socialist were out of line.

"He shouted xenophobic conspiracy theories about me. He scolded my district for voting for me," Omar said. "His hate is no match for our movement."

Outside the arena, protesters marched and chanted ahead of the rally while thousands of supporters waited in hopes of getting into the event center.

"His presence here is a finger in the eye for the whole city," Steve Clay, a protester from Minneapolis, said.

But Trump supporters who waited all day to see the president disagreed, saying the president was doing what voters wanted.

Adam Perry, 34, made the drive from Austin, Minn., Thursday morning and waited in line for almost eight hours to get into the rally. He said he was concerned about the legislative push to limit access to firearms and the growing division in politics.

"They're not listening. Everybody is so anti-him," Perry said. "He's doing what a lot of us want and a lot of people don't want to listen,"

Forum News Service reporters Matthew Guerry and Sarah Mearhoff contributed to this report.

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