President Trump is holding his first campaign rally Thursday since the House began an impeachment inquiry, and it’s in a seemingly odd location: royal-blue Minneapolis, home of his political adversary Congresswoman Ilhan Omar.
But the Trump campaign views Minnesota, which he lost by less than 2% in 2016, as a potential win in the 2020 electoral map, according to several senior campaign officials and other people close to the operation. “We’ve always believed that we can win Minnesota,” one adviser told VICE News.
But the campaign officials aiming to sway some Minnesotans are also holding their breath on a second hope: that the president can stay on message. His public appearances in the past week since it came to light that he pressured the president of Ukraine to investigate the Bidens have often gone off the rails. In a press conference last week with the president of Finland, Trump called the impeachment inquiry “a fraudulent crime on the American people.” He’s also accused those leading the inquiry of “treason.”
A Trump campaign official offered a blunt assessment, calling the show of force in the state a “shiny object” — a distraction for a president (and constituents) who have been increasingly focused on his possible impeachment.
Read more: Trump's legal position on impeachment is bananas.
Still, that’s not to say focusing on Minnesota is a bad idea for Trump in 2020. In 2016, Hillary Clinton won the state by less than 2%, which translated to Trump losing by 44,765 votes. The official pointed to similar demographics in neighboring states like Wisconsin and Iowa, which both went red in 2016.
“The issue sets are similar as well,” an adviser added, pointing specifically to Obama-era regulation of the mining industry that affected Minnesotans in the northern, more conservative part of the state.
Jennifer Carnahan, chairwoman of the Minnesota Republican Party, told VICE News in a phone call that it’s “very significant” to have both Trump and Vice President Mike Pence visiting the state this early in the campaign season. Pence will also make a couple of official appearances in the state before appearing onstage at Thursday evening’s rally. Second lady Karen Pence and Lara Trump, the president’s daughter-in-law, held a Women for Trump event in Minnesota on Wednesday.
Carnahan said the slate of events indicate the Trump campaign is taking a different approach to the state this time around.
“Last time there was no strategic effort, no focus on the state because most people thought the state would go blue,” she said.
The Trump campaign hopes to take a page from an unusual example in 2018 of a congressional district flipping from blue to red. That happened in Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District, where Republican Pete Stauber won by more than five points.
Carnahan also pointed to that district as a measurable way that Republicans are gaining strength in the state ahead of the 2020 presidential elections. “Our 10 electoral votes are very much in play,” she said.
One way the impeachment inquiry doesn’t appear to be hurting the president is in his fundraising efforts.
Campaign manager Brad Parscale told the Associated Press that in the 24 hours after the impeachment inquiry was announced, the campaign raised $5 million from donors online in all 50 states.
In Minnesota, Carnahan says they’ve seen a spike in fundraising numbers for the state party in the last three to four weeks: 45,000 individual donors, which is a 50% increase over where the state party typically is, she says.
Cover: President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a campaign rally at the Santa Ana Star Center, Monday, Sept. 16, 2019, in Rio Rancho, N.M. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)