ST. PAUL — Campaigns for President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden said they would ratchet up their get-out-the-vote efforts and messaging about voting early in the days before the candidates touch down for head-to-head Minnesota rallies this week.
Trump and Biden are both set to stump in Minnesota on Friday, Sept. 18, with Trump planning to visit Bemidji and Biden set to speak at a yet undisclosed location. The campaign stops come on the day Minnesota kicks off early voting in the general election.
And ahead of the dueling visits, both presidential campaigns said they were revving up efforts to build support in Minnesota, banking voter contacts, running ads and encouraging Minnesotans to cast their votes early.
Trump came within 1.5 percentage points of winning the state in 2016 and his campaign has maintained staffing and infrastructure in Minnesota in the years since. And campaign spokespeople said they were confident that that work would pay off in November.
“We’re not sitting in a basement — our team is out there talking to voters face to face, over the phone," Carrie Tucker, GOP deputy political director, said, noting the campaign had made more than 3 million voter contacts in Minnesota. "We have the best motivator at our fingertips and that’s President Donald J. Trump, and he's going to be there in person."
The president has said he hopes to snap Minnesota's longest-in-the-nation streak of supporting a Democrat in presidential contests. And he has made a handful of stops in Minnesota in his effort to do that.
Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party officials and Biden's campaign in Minnesota said they were hopeful too that Biden's visit in the state would build support for his presidential bid. Maria Langholz, a spokeswoman for the DFL, said the Biden campaign has made contact with 2 million voters in the state through call and text campaigns.
“We’re finding safe and creative ways of increasing visibility despite the pandemic,” Langholz said. "People are excited and want to show their support for Biden and Harris and encourage their friends and neighbors to go vote for them too, so we need to make sure there are ways for people to do that."
Democrats pushed most of their campaigning to virtual channels to minimize risks posed by COVID-19, and ahead of Biden's visit they expanded a voter portal that can provide more information about getting registered and casting a ballot by mail. Langholz said the DFL would launch a campaign this week to encourage early voting.
“The stakes for our country have never been higher, and we’re making sure Americans have all the information they need in order to make their plan to vote and send Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to the White House," Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez said in a news release about the "I Will Vote" website.
Tucker, with the GOP, said voter surveys in North Carolina found that 85% of those polled said they prefer to vote in-person rather than by mail. And in reaching out to voters, Tucker said campaign staff encouraged Minnesotans to cast their ballots in whatever way made them feel most comfortable.
Tucker said Biden might have an early advantage as Democrats may be more likely to cast absentee ballots before Election Day, but that would be leveled by Nov. 3.
“You don’t get more points for having your people vote absentee and early, it’s all about turning out voters, and that’s something that the RNC and the Trump campaign has done very successfully since 2016,” Tucker said.
Recent polling in the state showed Biden had a nine percentage point lead over Trump, but campaign officials said the polls understated Trump's support in 2016 and likely would do so again this year.
“I believe there’s an undersampling and an undercurrent of that silent Trump voter, and when I’m on the ground I see it," U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber said. "The enthusiasm across northern Minnesota that I am seeing is really, really historic, and I think it’s going to bode well for the president’s reelection."