We wouldn’t blame you for thinking Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden was about to drop the hottest album of 2020 after seeing this mailer.
That, or he was in that Star Wars movie you couldn’t get up the gumption to see. You know the one.
But it’s actually from the Republican Party of Minnesota, which is really hopeful that this could be their year.
That might sound a little farfetched. A Democratic candidate has won in Minnesota 11 straight presidential elections in a row, the longest active streak in the nation. The last Republican to win absolutely anything in a statewide election was Tim Pawlenty, back in 2006.
Minnesota said “Mondale” when literally every other state in the nation said “Reagan.” For a while there, the New York Times was trying to kick us out of the Midwest for being too progressive. Minnesota isn’t just blue – it’s weirdly blue.
But maybe not for long. According to a number of political analyses – including a recent swing state study by prominent stats blog FiveThirtyEight – there are reasons to think things are getting quantifiably redder here.
In the first 10 of those 11 straight Democratic wins, Minnesota voters trended more strongly toward that side than the national electorate. In 1988, Michael Dukakis won Minnesota by 7 percent, while George H.W. Bush won the national popular vote by 7.6 percent. Both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama won Minnesota by large margins, compared to tighter elections nationwide.
But in 2016, Minnesota's margins -- 46.4 percent for Hillary Clinton, and 44.9 for Donald Trump -- were more Republican (by 0.7 percent) than the national average, an outcome not seen here since 1952, when we voted for Eisenhower’s reelection.
Based on polling results, FiveThirtyEight still believes Biden will carry our state -- but only by about 4.2 points, or 1.9 points less than the 6.1 percent they're projecting in the national popular vote.
There’s plenty of reasons why that could be. FiveThirtyEight pointed to Minnesota’s particular brand of progressivism, which has been traditionally steeped in labor issues (hence, Democratic-Farmer-Labor party). It’s thought that more recent leftist stances on both mining and gun control (anti- and pro-, respectively) have alienated some traditionally Democratic Iron Range voters and sent them into the waiting arms of Republicans.
That was the reason given by six northern Minnesota mayors last week for why they were endorsing Trump – which was swiftly contested by the local steelworkers union this week.
The Trump campaign's certainly making a play for Minnesota: The president spoke in Mankato a couple weeks back, Mike Pence was in Duluth last week, and Donald Trump Jr. will be there next Wednesday. The campaign has spent $14 million in TV ad buys on Minnesota stations, and even made a specific ad all about us.
Here's what that's like. Minnesota comes off as a pretty scary place. "Community, not criminals," says a voiceover. "Jobs, not mobs."
Broad, firm stats are one thing, but on a more anecdotal, hyperlocal level, Hanisch Bakery in Red Wing – just an hour or two’s drive from the Twin Cities – was shocked to see how far Trump was pulling ahead in their traditional cookie poll. When WCCO checked in this week, the bakery had sold 696 cookies frosted with Biden’s name, and 2,576 cookies frosted with Trump’s.
“In the 25 years I’ve been here, I’ve never seen it like this,” proprietor Bill Hanisch said.
The bakery claims its cookie poll has predicted the winner of the popular vote every year since… you guessed it… 1984.