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Trump Rally in Duluth Marks Beginning of GOP Fight to Win Minnesota in 2018, 2020

Trump, Stauber, Minneota
Scott Olson/Getty Images

President Trump’s rally in Duluth, Minnesota Wednesday night marked the beginning of the Republican Party’s campaign to win Minnesota in 2018 and 2020.

Trump almost pulled that victory off in 2016, narrowly losing the state to Hillary Clinton by a mere 44,000 votes, a fact the president acknowledged to the enthusiastic crowd at the very beginning of the rally.

“I hate to bring this up, but we came this close to winning the state of Minnesota,” Trump told the enthusiastic crowd.

A lot is at stake politically in Minnesota for both parties, in 2018 as well as 2020.

It is no mistake that the president held his first political rally after last week’s highly successful Singapore Summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un in the biggest city in Minnesota’s expansive Eighth Congressional District, where Republican candidate Pete Stauber, a retired Duluth police officer, has a chance to take the seat away from Democratic control.

President Trump brought Stauber on stage to great cheers from the audience

“Like President Trump, I love this country. I love our freedoms. And I love our Constitution,” Stauber told the crowd.

As Breitbart News reported previously, the Eighth Congressional District looks like an exceptional opportunity for a Republican pick up in November:

President Trump won the Eighth Congressional District by 16 points in 2016, and the retiring Democrat who currently represents the district–Rep. Rick Nolan (D-MN)–narrowly eked out a 50.2 percent to 49.6 percent victory over Stewart Mills, the GOP candidate.

With Nolan’s retirement, the November election is now for an open seat, and the Democrats are in disarray ahead of the August 14 primary, where four candidates are vying for the nomination.

Republicans, in contrast, are rallying around . . . Stauber [who] seems like a perfect fit to support Trump’s agenda in Congress.

House of Representatives

The Democrats need a net gain of 23 seats to regain a majority in the House of Representatives. Should they take back control of the House, the first likely act of the new Speaker will be to file articles of impeachment against President Trump based not on any “impeachable offense,” but rather on the president’s audacity for actually winning the 2016 Presidential election fair and square.

As Breitbart News reported earlier this month, “The majority of the 99 seats in the House of Representatives identified by the Cook Political Report as “competitive” in 2018 are in eight states: California, Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, and Michigan. . . Only 15 of the 99 competitive seats are currently held by Democrats, while 84 are held by Republicans.”

Fifty-one of the 99 competitive races are in those eight states–California (10), Pennsylvania (9), Florida (7), Ohio (5), Minnesota (5), New Jersey (5), New York (5), and Michigan (5).

Only eight of those 51 seats are currently held by Democrats, while 43 are held by Republicans.

Minnesota is the only state in the country where more Democrat held seats are competitive (3) than Republican held seats (2).

Despite earlier predictions of a Democratic “Blue Wave” in November, most polls and pundits suggest that the electoral battle for control of the House will be hard fought by both parties until the polls close on November 6, and a few seats may determine which party prevails.

With so much at stake, Minnesota’s three potential takeaways from the Democrats are a tempting target for President Trump and the Republican Party.

Both Minnesota’s First Congressional District, where party registration is Republican +5, and Minnesota Eighth Congressional District, where party registration is Republican +4, are “Open” seats where the incumbent Democrat is not running for election. The Cook Political Report rates them as “Toss-Ups,” the only House seats currently held by Democrats in the country in that category.

Minnesota’s Seventh Congressional District, currently represented by Rep. Collin Peterson, is rated as “Likely Democrat,” but party registration there is Republican +12.

Senate

Two Senate seats currently held by Democrats are up in 2018, thanks to Sen. Al Franken’s (D-MN) resignation after pictures of him engaging in inappropriate behavior surfaced.

The Cook Political Report rates Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s (D-MN) race as “Solid Democratic,” but rates Franken replacement Sen. Tina Smith’s (D-MN) special election race as merely “Lean Democratic.”

With a surge of pro-Trump agenda voters, Republicans have a real chance of taking Smith’s seat away from the Democrats in November.

Earlier this month, the Minnesota Republican Party convention “endorsed state Sen. Karin Housley to run against DFL incumbent Tina Smith and state Rep. Jim Newberger to run against DFL incumbent Amy Klobuchar. Both Housley and Newberger faced endorsement challengers, but both won easily on the first ballot,” the Minnesota Post reported:

Housley’s race against Smith is expected to be more competitive than Newberger’s challenge to Klobuchar. Smith, appointed by Gov. Dayton to replace Al Franken, has limited experience on the campaign trail and will face Housley, a state Senator since 2010, on relatively equal footing. Former George W. Bush administration official Richard Painter is also running for Senate on the DFL side.

Governor

Incumbent Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat, is not running for re-election, and the Cook Political Report rates this race a “Toss-Up.”

Lori Swanson, also a Democrat, the incumbent attorney general who had announced in January she would be running for a fourth term, surprised everyone when she announced earlier this month that she would seek her party’s nomination for governor instead, as the Star-Tribune reported:

Minnesota’s attorney general jumped into the state’s crowded race for governor on Monday, just two days after being snubbed by Democratic party activists for re-election to her current job,”

Attorney General Lori Swanson joins the field for the Democratic nomination just a day before the state’s filing deadline closes — and five months after passing up the race in favor of a fourth run for attorney general. She abruptly withdrew from the race for her current job on Saturday, after her party gave its nod to a little-known challenger who painted himself as a more liberal alternative.

“Swanson’s entry into the gubernatorial race will make for a potentially bruising Democratic primary in August, as Democrats try to hang on to the office when Gov. Mark Dayton leaves after two terms. The party endorsed state Rep. Erin Murphy, who appealed to the party’s more liberal factions, during the weekend over U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, though Walz is still running in the primary,” the Star-Tribune noted.

On the Republican side, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a moderate and sometime critic of President Trump whose 2008 presidential bid went nowhere, faces a potentially tough challenger in Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, the GOP nominee for governor in 2014, who lost to Dayton by a 50 percent to 44 percent margin.

In contrast to Pawlenty’s lack of support for President Trump, Johnson tweeted today that he  supports President Trump 100 percent.

State Attorney General

Another surprising curve ball in Minnesota state politics came earlier this month when far left Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), the co-chair of the Democratic National Committee, engaged in a bitter rivalry with Tom Perez, the man who defeated him for the top spot at the DNC in 2017, announced that he would not seek re-election to the House of Representatives but would instead return to Minnesota to run for the Attorney General spot being vacated by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Lori Swanson.

“Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, has filed papers to run for Minnesota attorney general,” the Star-Tribune reported on June 5:

Ellison, also the deputy chairman of the Democratic National Committee, filed Tuesday just hours ahead of a deadline. Ellison will keep his post with the national party.

Ellison is in his sixth term representing a reliably Democratic Minneapolis-area seat. But he was lured into Minnesota’s attorney general race after the incumbent, Lori Swanson, jumped into the governor’s race on Monday.

Ellison says it was attorneys general who led the fight against President Donald Trump’s ban on travelers from mostly Muslim countries. He says he wants to be part of that fight.

Given the growing opposition to refugee resettlement in Minnesota, which now has the largest Somali community in the country, Ellison’s focus on using the office of state attorney general, should he be elected, as position from which to litigate against the Trump agenda, will clearly have an impact on the outcome of other statewide races in 2018, and possibly even on the Presidential race there in 2020.

2020

Though President Trump is not on the Minnesota ballot  in 2018, support for his agenda certainly is a key factor in all the statewide and Congressional races. The president and his political team clearly believe that a strong showing in November 2018 will position him to do in 2020 what he fell just short of in 2016: win Minnesota’s ten electoral college votes.

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