DULUTH, Minn. (CN) — President Donald Trump returned to Minnesota for the second time in a month Wednesday night, holding his first rally after Tuesday night’s raucous debate in the state’s northern industrial capital of Duluth.
Trump tore into Democratic rival Joe Biden and CNN debate moderator Chris Wallace inbetween barbs at Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, her fellow Minnesota Democrats and his predecessor Barack Obama.
Trump headlined a GOP fundraiser at the home of Cambria countertops magnate Marty Davis before traveling to Duluth for an 8 p.m. rally. At 8:15, Trump spoke to a crowd of a few hundred, most masked and bundled up against windy weather in the low 50s.
Trump’s voice was noticeably hoarse as he spoke, calling on the crowd to push him toward the first Republican victory in Minnesota since Richard Nixon carried the state in 1972.
He began by boasting of high ratings for his Tuesday night debate against Biden, which he claimed was the most-watched cable news event of all time.
While the debate did draw big numbers, an estimated 73.1 million people, it did not match up even to Trump’s first debate with Hillary Clinton in 2016, which drew 84 million. In 1980, Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter’s sole debate drew 80.6 million.
Trump followed that up with a claim that the debate was the second-most watched television broadcast of all time. His pick for the winner in that contest — the 1983 finale of M.A.S.H., which drew 121.6 million viewers — was incorrect, and so was the claim overall. M.A.S.H., and by extension the debate, was beaten out by every Super Bowl since 2010.
In between false claims, Trump lobbed accusations at moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News and the media more generally, saying they were unfair to him.
“Chris Wallace… can you believe this guy? I was debating two people last night,” he said.
“What are they gonna do without Trump? Those poor people, look at them. It’s a lot of people,” he said, gesturing toward the media at the rally.
He went on to disparage Biden for not saying the phrase “law enforcement” at the debate, then switched to a more coherent tack of demanding why Biden did not name any law enforcement groups who had endorsed him.
Biden has been endorsed by several current and former law enforcement officials, though Trump holds some major endorsements from related organizations.
After discussion of the debate, Trump briefly praised Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, eliciting chants of “fill that seat” from the crowd.
He also paid homage to the Iron Range, a broad swath of ore-rich terrain in northern Minnesota for which Duluth serves as the major commercial center.
Trump touted endorsements from several Iron Range mayors, along with steel tariffs which he said brought increased business to the range. He threatened that Biden would “close” the Iron Range, saying that he and Obama had done so.
The iron ore industry in the range has in fact improved under Trump’s tariffs. Obama’s administration did take a hard line on copper-nickel mining, fearing they could pollute the range’s watersheds, but iron ore mining continued.
Trump soon pivoted to one of his favorite Minnesota scapegoats: U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar. He decried a debunked video claiming to show Omar’s supporters harvesting ballots, encouraged cries to “lock her up,” and accused Somali refugees like Omar of overcrowding hospitals by “flooding” into the state.
“It’s a disgrace what they’ve done to your state,” he said.
Trump had heralded his return to Minnesota on Twitter throughout the evening, repeating several times that he had “saved” Minneapolis from civil unrest following the May 25 death of George Floyd in police custody.
Riots, looting and arson died down after a crackdown from local police and the Minnesota National Guard, called in by Democratic Governor Tim Walz. Protests in Minneapolis and the neighboring capital of St. Paul have continued, with some cropping up in the surrounding suburbs and elsewhere in the state.
Trump has targeted Minnesota heavily throughout the campaign and his presidency, visiting seven times in an effort to improve on his 45,000-vote loss there in 2016.
That margin was the closest a Republican has come to winning Minnesota since native son Walter Mondale led Ronald Reagan in the state by fewer than 4,000 votes in 1984.
Trump has vowed on numerous occasions to take the state in 2020, and son Eric Trump is scheduled to hold another event on Thursday in the small Twin Cities suburb of Becker. At the rally, Trump warned supporters that “if I lose Minnesota, I’m never coming back.”
Biden has also campaigned heavily in the North Star State as part of a broader effort to shore up support in Midwestern states where Hillary Clinton underperformed. He visited a union training center in Duluth on Sept. 18, and wife Jill Biden has a Minnesota campaign stop scheduled for Saturday.
Biden’s running mate, Senator Kamala Harris, is expected to virtually address the Democratic Farmer-Labor Party’s annual Humphrey-Mondale dinner on Thursday.
Recent polling shows Biden with a six-point lead over Trump in Minnesota, with 48% of the vote to Trump’s 42%. Early voting began Sep. 18.
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