ROCHESTER — Never one to follow conventional thinking, Donald Trump took the stage at the Mayo Civic Center Arena on Thursday night with a question.
“So this is supposed to be a Democratic state?” Trump asked a full house at southern Minnesota’s largest venue in his second visit to the Gopher state in four months. “I don’t think so. They have a very big surprise coming, don’t you think?”
Trump came to Rochester, a friendly area in a liberal state, with the hope of whipping into a frenzy the voters that came out for him in 2016 to do the same for candidates on the ballot this fall. Minnesota hasn’t gone red in a presidential election since 1972, but Trump came within two points of Hillary Clinton two years ago.
A White House memo leaked earlier this week indicated that candidates who distance themselves from Trump, who polls say is slipping in support in suburban areas, will suffer this fall.
The GOP candidates running for office in Rochester on Thursday night were all aboard the Trump train.
One of the politicians he pulled up on stage was Jim Hagedorn, a Blue Earth businessman running for the 1st Congressional District seat for the third consecutive election cycle.
Hagedorn is running against Red Wing native Dan Feehan, who both Hagedorn and Trump said wants to move the country toward single-payer health care.
“Does that make sense for Mayo Clinic and Rochester?” Hagedorn said. “They want to take us back to Obama and then some.”
In response to the Trump rally, Feehan and Lt. Gov. candidate Peggy Flanagan led a door knocking campaign in Rochester that the state DFL party called a kickoff to “KNOCK-tober.”
U.S. Rep. Jason Lewis, R-Burnsville, and U.S. Senate candidate Karin Housley were also pulled on stage — although Housley wasn’t supposed to be up there. She took the podium earlier in the day, taking a page out of the Trump playbook and giving her opponent a nickname “Taxin’ Tina" Smith.
“Boy, you really do go off script,” Housley quipped to Trump.
Housley and Smith are running to finish the remainder of Al Franken’s term after he resigned because of allegations of improper touching.
Trump took a few shots at Franken for how quickly he resigned and questioned the political chops of his appointed replacement, Smith.
“Nobody knows who the hell she is,” Trump said. “She took a whacky guy’s place … he was whacky. Boy did he fold up like a wet rag. Man. Man. He was gone so fast.”
Aside from a few other shots at other Democrats, Trump’s speech, which lasted nearly an hour, was relatively tame by his standards. He didn’t bring up Christine Blasey Ford — like he did at a rally Tuesday night in Mississippi — who accused Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh, of sexual misconduct.
Instead, Trump focused on Kavanaugh, calling him the No. 1 student at Yale and at Yale Law School, and saying he must be confirmed.
Of Democrats, he said, “Their rage-fueled resistance is starting to backfire at a level nobody has ever seen before.”
Added Trump: “Do we love it? We love it. Because people see what’s happening and they don’t like it.”
He accused the Democrats of desperately grabbing at power, saying, “They want to resist, they want to obstruct, they want to delay, demolish, they want to destroy.”
Outside Washington, the focus still remained on the dramatic nomination process for Trump’s Supreme Court nominee. Trump told reporters he thinks Kavanaugh is “doing very well” as senators weigh a new FBI background report prompted by allegations of sexual misconduct.
Trump earlier tweeted his support for Kavanaugh, who is accused of a sexual assault at a high school party, saying, “Due Process, Fairness and Common Sense are now on trial!” Trump has sought to use the Kavanaugh confirmation conflict to appeal to white men, arguing that the accusations are proof that innocent men could be unfairly targeted.
Trump also ticked off what he views as key accomplishments, including jobs and economic gains and exiting the Iran nuclear deal. He also touted ongoing promises, including his pledge to develop a Space Force.