On Tuesday, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to brag.
“In 2016 I almost won Minnesota,” he wrote. “In 2020, because of America hating anti-Semite Rep. Omar, & the fact that Minnesota is having its best economic year ever, I will win the State! ‘We are going to be a nightmare to the President,’ she say. No, AOC Plus 3 are a Nightmare for America!”
There’s lot to unpack there.
Trump *did* come close to winning Minnesota in 2016. The final results looked like this:
Hillary Clinton: 46.9% (1,366,676 votes)
Donald Trump: 45.4% (1,322,891 votes)
So yes, Trump did almost win Minnesota — losing by about 44,000 votes out of more than 2.6 million cast. And yes, the narrowness of that result means that there is at least the possibility he could win it again.
But that doesn’t mean he will win it again — more on that in a minute — and it certainly doesn’t mean that his attacks on Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar will have anything to do with the final result.
Let’s deal with Omar first. She was elected in 2018 in an overwhelmingly Democratic district previously held by Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress. The district is centered in the urban hub of Minneapolis and voted for Clinton with 74% of the vote in 2016. Two years later, Omar won the general election with more than 78%.
In short, Trump may not like her views and believe she “hates” America, but those views are very much in line with her district. Could Omar’s raised profile in the state influence some voters in more rural areas to vote for Trump in 2020? I mean, maybe? But that seems unlikely to be a statistically significant number of people.
Now as to the broader competitiveness of Minnesota, there’s no question the state has been trending more competitive for Republicans in recent years. In 2012, it was the11th closest state — by margin of victory — as then-President Barack Obama won it by 7.6 points over Mitt Romney. In 2016, it was the 6th closest state, with Clinton winning by 1.5 points.
That’s in keeping with Trump’s gains more broadly in the industrial Midwest — putting Ohio out of reach and winning in places like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania — where GOP presidential nominees hadn’t won in decades. (The last time a Republican won Minnesota at the presidential level was in 1972, when the state voted for Richard Nixon.)
Like those other Midwestern states, Minnesota is heavily white — 80% of the population — and older. There are also large rural areas in the state — places where Trump significantly outperformed a generic Republican in 2016.
And Republicans have had some moderate level of success there — having elected Tim Pawlenty as governor for two terms as well as Norm Coleman and Rod Grams in the last few decades.
Even in the 2018 election — not exactly a good one for Republicans nationally — Minnesota was a bright spot, with Republicans winning two open seats in the state.
All of which means that, yes, it is possible that Trump can turn Minnesota from blue to red next November. In fact, Minnesota looks like his best (only?) chance to win a state that he lost in 2016. But no, Ilhan Omar will not have much to do with Trump winning or losing.