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News / Nation & World

Trump heads to Minnesota to campaign after attending his son Barron’s Florida high school graduation

By STEVE KARNOWSKI, , Associated Press,
Published: May 17, 2024, 9:38am

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Former President Donald Trump will head to Minnesota on a day off from his hush money trial for a Republican fundraiser Friday night in a traditionally Democratic state that he boasts he can carry in November.

Trump will headline the state GOP’s annual Lincoln Reagan dinner in St. Paul, which coincides with the party’s state convention, after attending his son Barron’s high school graduation in Florida. Trump attended the graduation Friday morning with his wife, Melania Trump, and her father, Viktor Knavs.

Trump will use part of the day granted by the trial judge for the graduation to campaign in Minnesota, a state he argues he can win in the November rematch with President Joe Biden. No Republican presidential candidate has won Minnesota since Richard Nixon in 1972, but Trump came close to flipping the state in 2016, when he fell 1.5 percentage points short of Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Trump returned to Minnesota several times in 2020, when Biden beat him by more than 7 percentage points.

“I think this is something Trump wants to do. He believes this is a state he can win. We believe that’s the case as well,” David Hann, the chairman of the Republican Party of Minnesota, said in an interview.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Tina Smith of Minnesota, a Biden ally, said the Trump campaign is “grasping at straws” if it thinks he can win the state.

“The Biden campaign is going to work hard for every vote,” Smith said in an interview. “We’re going to engage with voters all over the state. But I think Minnesota voters are going to choose President Biden.”

Trump’s youngest son, Barron Trump, graduated from the private Oxbridge Academy in West Palm Beach, Florida. The former president had long complained Judge Juan M. Merchan would not let him attend the graduation before Merchan agreed not to hold court Friday.

Hann is co-hosting Friday’s dinner along with Trump’s state campaign chair, House Majority Whip Tom Emmer, who represents a central Minnesota district. Hann said Emmer was instrumental in bringing the former president to Minnesota.

The dinner coincides with the party’s state convention. Tickets started at $500, ranging up to $100,000 for a VIP table for 10 with three photo opportunities with Trump. Hann declined to say how much money he expects it will raise, but he anticipates a full house of around 1,400 people.

All the money from the dinner tickets will go to the state party, Hann said, though he added that some money from photo opportunities may go to the Trump campaign.

Experts are split on whether Minnesota really will be competitive this time, given its history and the strong Democratic Party ground game in the state. But Hann said there’s “great dissatisfaction with President Biden” in the state, noting that nearly 19% of Democratic voters in its Super Tuesday primary marked their ballots for “uncommitted.” That was at least partly due to a protest-vote movement over Biden’s handling of the Israel-Hamas war that has spread to several states.

In an interview aired Wednesday by KSTP-TV of Minneapolis-St. Paul, Trump said his speech would focus on economic issues. And he repeated a false claim he made in March to KNSI Radio of St. Cloud that he thought he won Minnesota in 2020, even though there’s no evidence that there were any serious irregularities in the state.

“We think we have a really good shot at Minnesota,” Trump told KSTP. “We have great friendships up there. We’ve done a lot for industry. We’ve done a lot for everything in Minnesota. Worked hard on Minnesota. Tom Emmer is very much involved.”

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