Minnesota has been a loyal blue state for decades now, delivering its Electoral College votes to every Democratic presidential candidate since 1976 — the longest blue streak in the nation. However, in 2016, then-Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump came within 2 percentage points of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in the popular vote, carrying 78 of Minnesota’s 87 counties. It caught the attention of democrats and republicans alike. 

We all know this is a President who loves to talk about “all that winning” but he rarely forgets when he loses either. Early in this cycle, the Trump campaign announced an unprecedented investment of field staff and offices in the state. They brag effusively about having knocked on over 1 Million doors in canvassing in the Iron Range, western counties and what I like to call “Bachman suburbs”. Take a drive around Detroit Lakes and you will encounter three Trump stores selling flags, lawn signs, and MAGA hats at a steady clip. You’d be hard-pressed to be on any lake without seeing a Trump flag flying off a dock flagpole. His campaign says it sees the potential to flip the state in 2020 and it’s placing a huge television buy to back up their theory. The president is spending $14 million over the next eight weeks in Minnesota. They started the buy this Monday – a week earlier than originally budgeted because…there’s something about Minnesota. 

In comparison, the Biden campaign is spending only $2.4 million on television over the same eight weeks’ period and started this Monday as well. The two ads focus on the economy and the coronavirus. The former Vice President has stated he will soon be doing in-person events in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, naming Minnesota along with Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Arizona as the first four states he will travel to as he resumes public events. There’s something about Minnesota.

Minnesota’s population trends older, a demographic trait that puts the state in the top five for voter turnout. Even with a pandemic, election officials across the country are expecting record high turnout this year, and that means that Democrats need to be fighting for every single vote in Minnesota’s urban and rural neighborhoods. (Nearly a quarter of Minnesota’s population lives in rural counties.) Despite the long-standing Democratic streak when it comes to presidential elections, statewide elections have been much less consistent, and Republicans have had better luck at winning the governorship than Democrats have had.

Given this landscape – a close presidential in 2016, Republican candidates performing better in statewide races, and significant financial investments by the Republican campaign machine – the resources the Trump campaign is dedicating to Minnesota in this cycle are smart investments. The higher the turnout for Trump in Minnesota, the better off down-ballot candidates like Jason Lewis and others will be. (The Lewis campaign just released internal polling showing he was within two points of Smith.)

Presidential outcomes heavily influence Senate outcomes, according to an analysis by One Country Project, and Minnesota has elected candidates of the same party to the presidency and Senate since 2009. If Trump manages to eke out a slim win there this time, Tina Smith will have to overcompensate to make the cut. Similarly, if the ads and campaign stops Biden is making in Minnesota can keep the Democratic streak going, the better the odds are for Tina Smith to help Democrats maintain their current position in the Senate, if not win a majority outright. Smith deserves a larger investment about Biden for Biden.  She’s been focused on health care since taking office and it’s the number one issue in every Minnesota poll that I have seen.

There’s something about Minnesota alright – and depending on how the presidential race plays out, that something could have significant implications for how the Senate looks in 2021 and beyond.

Tessa Gould