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Capitol Chatter: Trump seeks 2020 Minnesota win

President Donald Trump waves to the crowd at Amsoil Arena at the conclusion of his Duluth, Minn., speech on Wednesday, June 20, 2018. Bob King / Forium News Service1 / 2
U.S. House candidate Pete Stauber takes a photo of President Donald Trump with Lt. Gov. Michelle Fischbach and Senate Majority Leder Paul Gazelka shortly after landing in Duluth, Minn., Wednesday, June 20, 2018. Bob King / Forum News Service2 / 2

ST. PAUL—President Donald Trump fully expects to win Minnesota in 2020 if he can visit the state another time or two.

"I hate to bring this up, but we came this close to winning the state of Minnesota," he told a packed house in Duluth Wednesday, June 20, as he held his finger and thumb nearly touching.

A couple more percentage points in 2016 and he would have been the first Republican presidential candidate to win Minnesota since Richard Nixon in 1972.

He went out of his way to woo voters in Duluth: "I am thrilled to be back in the great state of Minnesota with truly some of the most incredible people anywhere on Earth. You know that."

U.S. Reps. Jason Lewis from the southern Twin Cities and Tom Emmer, whose district is north and northwest of the Twin Cities, told Trump he will take the state in two years.

"You will win Minnesota in 2020," is what Lewis told Trump. "I can guarantee you that."

But Trump could face problems in an area he dominated in 2016: rural Minnesota.

While people on the Iron Range generally love Trump slapping tariffs on steel imported into the United State because it helps miners there, some farmers may rethink Trump. Those tariffs are causing pushback from China, who is putting tariffs on many American goods, including farm products such as soybeans and pork.

Supporting Pawlenty?

Trump did not specifically say who he supports for Minnesota governor, but observers wondered if comments he made in Duluth about former Gov. Tim Pawlenty's running mate may have been an indicator.

Lt. Gov. Michelle Fischbach, running with Pawlenty, greeted Trump at the airport (as did Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa).

"I also want to thank Lt. Gov. Michelle Fischbach for being here," Trump said. "She has been so great. Got a big race coming along. It's gonna do great."

Pawlenty skipped the Trump rally, and the president did not acknowledge Republican-endorsed candidate Jeff Johnson, who was in Duluth.

Pawlenty and Johnson are the two major GOP governor candidates. They face off in the Aug. 14 primary election, with the winner earning a spot on the Nov. 6 general election ballot.

Tight polls

It is early, but a recent poll shows some danger for Trump.

The Public Policy Polling organization shows 52 percent of Minnesotans do not approve of Trump's performance in office, while 43 percent approve. There was about the same split when voters were asked whether they would vote for Trump or a Democrat.

Getting ready

It appears Gov. Mark Dayton is preparing for whatever may come after the state Public Utilities Commission decides in coming days whether the Line 3 crude oil pipeline should be rebuilt.

He has met with tribal leaders and sheriffs. His office says that he is "meeting with proponents and opponents" of the Enbridge Energy pipeline plan.

It is doubtful that once the PUC makes a decision that the issue will end. Regardless of how the commission rules, the issue likely will end up in court.

There has been much talk in Minnesota about whether protests will be similar to one in North Dakota against Dakota Access Pipeline a couple of years ago. Some people opposed to Line 3 promise a bigger protest in Minnesota.

Swanson joins suit

Attorney General Lori Swanson joined colleagues around the country in preparing a lawsuit against the Trump administration's treatment of immigrant children.

Swanson announced the suit after Trump said he would change the policy and keep together families who enter the country illegally.

"Simply put, there is too much chaos and too many unanswered questions surrounding the treatment of these children, necessitating the involvement of a federal court to ensure that constitutional safeguards are being met," said Swanson, who is running for governor.

She added: "It should also be noted that reunification of the families does not resolve the problem of what to do with these children if the parents are prosecuted and imprisoned."

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.