If I were to ask you to name a Minnesota Democrat, I would imagine the first politician to come to mind for most of you would be Rep. Ilhan Omar. I’m sure there would be a few votes for Sen. Amy Klobuchar and her sputtering presidential campaign, and maybe a few of you would have memories of disgraced former Sen. Al Franken. But the freshman congresswoman from Minneapolis would likely come in first.
From that, you might intuit that Minnesota is getting more progressive. After all, the state hasn’t gone Republican in a national election since 1972. Omar took her seat from Keith Ellison, a progressive who became the state’s attorney general. Surely this isn’t Trump territory.
A funny thing is happening in Minnesota’s mining country, however — and it could mean that the Gopher State might turn red in 2020.
The trend is so pronounced in this usually Democratic corner of the world that even CNN is covering it. Take the mayor of Eveleth, Minnesota — who votes Democrat in local elections but has a Trump sticker on the front of his desk.
He’s in the middle of the Iron Range, a mining area much closer to Canada than it is to the Twin Cities:
Robert Vlaisavljevich recalled the glory days of the town — “40 or 50 years ago,” when Iron Range cities like Eveleth had “big city prosperity,” CNN reported.
“Things were just going gangbusters,” Vlaisavljevich said, walking down the town’s main street with CNN’s Martin Savidge.
“Businesses all over. Then, when it crashed, everybody was caught by surprise. When it crashed, it crashed hard.”
Trump, the mayor says, has focused on mining in a way the Democrats haven’t.
“He’s our guy, he supports mining. He’s our guy,” Vlaisavljevich said.
He’s not alone. When Savidge asked the mayor whether or not this was “thousands of people shifting and changing their politics,” he responded that was indeed the case.
If Savidge found any evidence to dent that statement, it wasn’t presented in the segment. The complaint was one we’ve heard before: Residents didn’t leave the party, the party left them.
“I think they’ve changed. I see conservative candidates seem to be more for the working person,” Melissa Axelson, whose husband works for a mining company, said.
Mike Volker, meanwhile, said, “the Democrats kinda shifted more to the left and the Republicans are … the party for jobs.”
As for Ilhan Omar, well, she doesn’t get a whole lot of love up in that part of the world.
“She offends a lot of people,” Vlaisavljevich said.
“She’s not popular here,” Savidge responded, which got an emphatic no from the mayor.
Trump has stated that he thinks Omar will help him win in 2020.
“In 2016 I almost won Minnesota,” he tweeted in July. “In 2020, because of America hating anti-Semite Rep. Omar, & the fact that Minnesota is having its best economic year ever, I will win the State! ‘We are going to be a nightmare to the President,’ she say. No, AOC Plus 3 are a Nightmare for America!”
In 2016 I almost won Minnesota. In 2020, because of America hating anti-Semite Rep. Omar, & the fact that Minnesota is having its best economic year ever, I will win the State! “We are going to be a nightmare to the President,” she say. No, AOC Plus 3 are a Nightmare for America!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 23, 2019
While CNN’s Chris Cillizza doesn’t buy that Ilhan Omar will deliver Minnesota into Trump’s hands in 2020, he also doesn’t think the state is a slam dunk for Democrats — which could be why reliably liberal CNN is sounding the alarm.
After Trump’s tweet in July, Cillizza wrote, “there’s no question the state has been trending more competitive for Republicans in recent years. In 2012, it was the 11th closest state — by margin of victory — as then-President Barack Obama won it by 7.6 points over Mitt Romney. In 2016, it was the sixth closest state, with Clinton winning by 1.5 points.
“That’s in keeping with Trump’s gains more broadly in the industrial Midwest — putting Ohio out of reach and winning in places like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania — where GOP presidential nominees hadn’t won in decades,” Cillizza wrote.
While it may not be Omar herself who’s inspiring these gains in the industrial Midwest, it’s what she represents: the Democratic Party’s lurch to the left. Mining country is, by its very nature, union country. That would ordinarily represent easy pickings for the Dems.
Instead, what we see is blue-collar Americans turning away from the Democrats because the Democrats have turned away from them. Yes, the Iron Range is just one part of the state, but the results from 2016 indicate there are a lot more voters thinking like the mayor of Eveleth is.
That should worry whomever Donald Trump’s opponent is since the last thing they need is another state to defend.
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