“Last night I did what the corrupt media has refused to do,” Trump said. “I held Joe Biden accountable for his 47 years of lies, 47 years of betrayal and 47 years of failure. I held Joe accountable for shipping your jobs and dreams abroad and for bowing to the violent mob at home.”
“Joe Biden is too weak to lead this country,” he added.
The previous night, Trump spent the bulk of his time interrupting and interjecting as Biden and moderator Chris Wallace spoke. To some Trump aides, the president’s constant haranguing was positive because it allowed him to determine the terms of the debate and deflected attention away from any serious policy discussion, including his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Several others in the Trump orbit thought the president’s persisten interruptions let Biden off the hook and didn’t give the former vice president the chance to potentially make gaffes or policy commitments he might later regret.
But to critics, the president’s performance only highlighted his chaotic style of leadership, which has turned off many independent, suburban and female voters this election year.
“We have a white supremacist in the White House who cares only about himself, who says he is about law and order but, I can guarantee you, is coming into my community, disregarding the laws of health and safety for Minnesotans,” Duluth’s mayor, Emily Larson, said ahead of the visit on a call with reporters. “He parses out core information about a coronavirus pandemic at a timeline that he thinks works best for him. I am not about him. I am about this community. I’m about the state, I am about this country, and I am about Joe Biden.”
Trump’s campaign advisers, allies and even the president himself have long viewed Minnesota in 2020 as a potential toss-up, thanks to Trump’s support among rural white, non-college-educated voters.
The last time the state went for a Republican presidential candidate was in 1972, when President Richard Nixon won a second term. Since then, the state has reliably supported Democratic candidates for president, and the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul remain bastions of progressive politics.
In 2016, 19 counties outside of the Twin Cities went for Trump, even though those same counties had supported Barack Obama in prior elections — lending credence to the Trump campaign’s idea of the state as one of the new battlegrounds.
Recent polls show Biden up by anywhere from 6 to 16 points in the state. The presidential contest is much closer in other battleground states, such as Florida, North Carolina and Arizona, but the Trump campaign still sees an opening in the northeastern part of Minnesota as the president tries to sway both rural and union workers. Roughly one week ago, Trump held a rally in Bemidji, Minn.
During the rally on Wednesday, Trump tried to portray himself as an ally of miners and other union workers. Flanking the stage were two long trucks filled with logs and adorned with signs reading “Make Logging Great Again.” Two huge American flags hung from cranes, and Trump spoke about his support for miners and the Iron Range in Minnesota.
“They closed it up,” the president said. “As vice president, Joe Biden wiped out, he wiped out so much and that includes what he whipped out in the great state of Minnesota and we’re not going to let it happen anymore.”
“But you know, they say it’s the greatest iron ore anywhere in the world and you should have it,” Trump added. “After I put tariffs on foreign steel, the iron rage came roaring back. But the biggest thing I did was knock out his executive order. I knocked out so many of the things that he did.”
Though Trump tried to take credit for saving steelworker jobs, both Obama and Trump took action to protect the steel industry from foreign steel dumping in the state. Obama implemented tariffs on Chinese steel, and most mines that were shuttered during a 2015 downturn reopened before Trump was elected, Minnesota Public Radio reported.
The president spent the entire first portion of the rally retelling his version of the story in which he triumphed the previous night over Biden, whom he sought to cast as a socialist.
“I’ve got news for Joe: If you ever became president, you have to deal with some of the toughest people in the world, and Chris Wallace is very, very easy by comparison, I will tell you,” Trump said. “I know them all.”
“You know Biden lost badly when his supporters are saying he should cancel the rest of his debates,” he added. “With those ratings, they’re never going to let him cancel. You don’t know television.”
Biden’s campaign has committed to participating the next debate “under whatever set of rules the Commission develops to try to contain Donald Trump’s behavior.” The Commission on Presidential Debates announced on Wednesday that it would be altering the format of the debates to better control the participants.
The rally in Duluth was uncommonly short, clocking just under an hour on stage, and it hit on many of Trump’s popular themes of law and order and his support from law enforcement groups; his recent pick for a Supreme Court seat; and immigration, falsely claiming that Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) wanted to flood the state with refugees and inundate the state’s schools and hospitals with immigrants.
“What are they going to do when in eight, 12, 16 more years we hang it up?” Trump said, talking about how boring he thought politics would be when he left, and giving fuel to the idea that he would potentially try to serve for more than the allowable two terms.