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GOP claims Trump could win Minnesota, New Jersey, Virginia in 2024 election. Here's what Democrats say.

Push back at claim Trump can flip blue states
Democrats push back at claims Trump can flip blue states 03:13

Gov. Tim Walz, the Democratic governor of Minnesota, had a ready answer for the question he's been hearing more lately: Is his state swinging toward former President Donald Trump this November?

"I don't see it on the ground. Donald Trump says a lot of things that aren't true," the multi-tasking governor told CBS News while he was preparing for a bill signing and tending to his barking dog. Walz is one of several high-profile Minnesota Democrats trying to defuse growing Republican claims.

During meetings with congressional Republicans on Capitol Hill last week, Republicans uncorked an argument that they believe Trump is competitive in Minnesota, New Jersey and Virginia in this year's election. Though the claim is not backed by broad sets of polling, and though it's a common political strategy to boast about a growing political battlefield to convince opponents to spend more to defend their interests, Democrats are responding aggressively and — in some cases — colorfully.  

"If Trump wants to spend his time and money trying to campaign in blue states, be our guest," a spokesperson for the Biden campaign said.

Some Democrats are daring Trump to invest money in the states, but others are urging caution that the three states shouldn't be taken for granted. Walz is not in the latter category.

"He still claims he won here in 2016 and 2020 and that's not true," Walz said of Trump's ongoing baseless claims about polls and elections. 

"When President Biden comes here, he delivers a billion dollars for the most important bridge in the upper Midwest," Walz said. "When Donald Trump comes here, it's hate, grievances and ridiculous stories."

"I think Trump and the Republicans are really grasping at straws here," Sen. Tina Smith, a Minnesota Democrat, told CBS News.  

However, "this will be a close election," Smith said. "Don't get me wrong, but that's why the Biden campaign is putting together such a strong effort here."

The Democratic National Committee has invested about $500,000 in Minnesota ahead of the election, for staff, technology, outreach efforts, email fundraising, data and operations infrastructure, and party-building initiatives. 

The optimism was doused by Rep. Dean Phillips, the Minnesota House member who briefly challenged Mr. Biden for the Democratic nomination. 

"Turnout will matter. I think Trump is right," he told CBS News. "And if he spends time in Minnesota, it will only help him."

The electoral votes of Minnesota, New Jersey and Virginia are not expected to be decisive, since a Trump victory in those states would only contribute to a likely electoral landslide.   

And Mr. Biden would still need a group of multiple swing states to secure victory, even if he prevails in Minnesota, New Jersey and Virginia.

But Trump's meeting with congressional Republicans launched speculation that the GOP is considering investing in cities like Minneapolis, Trenton and Richmond. Rep. Byron Donalds, a Florida Republican, who was reportedly under consideration to be Trump's running mate, said, "I'm hearing some positive things out of Minnesota. Michigan is — I think it's much more in play than it's been in the last couple of cycles. I actually got a call from a couple friends of mine in New Jersey, and they're like, 'Hey, are you guys doing anything in New Jersey? This is a real thing here.' And so, I think Americans just want to get our country back on track."

Some New Jersey Democrats scoff at the notion the Garden State could be won by Trump. Rep. Andy Kim, a Democrat trying to take Sen. Bob Menendez's Senate seat in November, told CBS News, "If President Trump wants to waste money in New Jersey, that's on him. But I know the energy in my state — the people want something different and they're absolutely exhausted by what Trump represents."

"I don't think Virginia is a Trump state, culturally," said Rep. Don Beyer, a Northern Virginia Democrat in the House. But citing a recent Fox News poll showing a competitive Virginia race between Trump and Mr. Biden, Beyer added, "I want to make sure that Virginians don't take the race for granted. I think every Democrat in Virginia has to treat it as if we're on a war footing." 

Rep. Gerry Connolly, a longtime House Democrat from Virginia, told CBS News, "Virginia has been a brick wall to Trump's MAGA politics. We know democracy is on the line, and the choice between President Biden and the twice-impeached, convicted felon couldn't be clearer."

In 2020, Mr. Biden won New Jersey and Virginia by double-digit margins. Meanwhile, Minnesota Democrats boast the longest current winning streak in the nation for Democratic presidential candidates, dating back to 1972 — and was the outlier state on behalf of Walter Mondale in 1984 — when Ronald Reagan was running for reelection.

But political strategists said it's a common ploy to seek to expand the battlefield and triumphantly claim a larger map.  

"When you're a party leader, Democrat or Republican, you have to say you're going to win," said Mike Erlandson, a former Democratic state party chair in Minnesota. 

A tightening race in any state has the potential to impact closely fought local races, including for Congress. Rep. Angie Craig, a Minnesota Democrat who has successfully navigated a battleground House seat, told CBS News, "We can't take anything for granted this year: the race for the Second District is always extremely competitive and expensive — especially in presidential election years, so we've got to make sure we're ready to defend ourselves from the attacks we know are coming."

Hunter Woodall contributed to this report.

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