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Trump heads to Minnesota, despite vowing never to return, after attending son Barron's graduation

Trump returns to Minnesota for first time since 2020 election
Trump returns to Minnesota for first time since 2020 election 02:58

Former President Donald Trump headed to Minnesota on a day off from his hush money trial for a Republican fundraiser Friday night in a traditionally Democratic state that he boasts he can carry in November.

Trump headlined the state GOP's annual Lincoln Reagan dinner, which coincides with the party's state convention, after attending his son Barron's high school graduation in Florida.

Trump used part of the day granted by the trial judge for the graduation to campaign in Minnesota, a state he argues he can win in the November rematch with President Joe Biden.

"I think this is something Trump wants to do. He believes this is a state he can win. We believe that's the case as well," David Hann, the chairman of the Republican Party of Minnesota, said in an interview.

Trump returned to Minnesota several times in 2020, when Biden beat him by more than 7 points. In the run-up to that election, Trump said he would never return to Minnesota should he lose there.

"What we've done for Minnesota — I lose Minnesota, I'm never coming back," Trump said. "I don't care. I'm never coming back."

Trump winning Minnesota would end half-century streak of state voting Dem

Minnesota has not voted for a Republican presidential candidate since the state went to Richard Nixon in 1972. But in 2016, Trump almost pulled off a shocking upset, losing to Hillary Clinton by less than 2 percentage points.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Tina Smith of Minnesota, a Biden ally, said the Trump campaign is "grasping at straws" if it thinks he can win the state.

"The Biden campaign is going to work hard for every vote," Smith said in an interview. "We're going to engage with voters all over the state. But I think Minnesota voters are going to choose President Biden."

Political pundits believe the state's 10 electoral votes are still in play.

"I think Donald Trump can win in Minnesota. He came within two points in 2016. And honestly, he didn't really put in a whole lot of effort," said Professor Larry Jacobs.

Dinner dovetails off son Barron Trump's graduation

Trump appeared at Friday's dinner after going to see Barron Trump's graduation from the private Oxbridge Academy in West Palm Beach, Florida. The former president had long complained Judge Juan M. Merchan would not let him attend the graduation before Merchan agreed not to hold court Friday.

Hann co-hosted Friday's dinner along with Trump's state campaign chair, House Majority Whip Tom Emmer, who represents a central Minnesota district. Hann said Emmer was instrumental in bringing the former president to Minnesota.

The dinner coincided with the party's state convention. Tickets started at $500, ranging up to $100,000 for a VIP table for 10 with three photo opportunities with Trump. Hann declined to say how much money he expected it would raise, but he anticipated a full house of around 1,400 people.

All the money from the dinner tickets will go to the state party, Hann said, though he added that some money from photo opportunities may go to the Trump campaign.

Experts are split on whether Minnesota really will be competitive this time, given its history and the strong Democratic Party ground game in the state. But Hann said there's "great dissatisfaction with President Biden" in the state, noting that nearly 19% of Democratic voters in its Super Tuesday primary marked their ballots for "uncommitted." That was at least partly due to a protest-vote movement over Biden's handling of the Israel-Hamas war that has spread to several states.

Trump's appearance at the 2024 Lincoln Reagan Dinner in St. Paul was a huge win for the GOP

Former President Donald Trump had a crowd of 1,400 devoted supporters cheering and laughing at the 2024 Lincoln Reagan Dinner at the Saint Paul RiverCentre Friday evening. 

"I'm thrilled to be back in the Twin Cities," said Trump to a massive applause. 

The former President also insisted he was going to win back the White House, slammed the current President, and despite a gag order made comments about the Judge in his ongoing "hush money" trial calling him, "conflicted and crooked." 

Trump continued his speech by falsely stating he had won Minnesota twice in the previous presidential elections. 

"I thought we won it in 2016, I know we won it in 2020, we gotta be careful, we gotta watch those votes, you know? We don't need the votes, we gotta watch those votes, that's the big danger," Former President Trump explained. "Stop the steal, there's a lot of different names we have for it but all of them are pretty accurate."

Trump focused on the Biden economy promising to improve inflation.

"His inflation catastrophe is in effect a colossal tax on American families, we will call it the Biden inflation tax," said Trump.

President Trump, who blocked Rep. Tom Emmer's chance at becoming House Speaker, praised Rep. Emmer for his continued support of his 2024 campaign. 

Tickets to the event ranged from $250 to $100,000. The Republican Party is calling this fundraiser such a massive success that they are no longer in debt for the first time in more than 10 years. 

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