Thousands turn out for last-minute Minnesota Trump rally
Updated: 8 p.m. | Posted: 2 p.m.
Republican Donald Trump's bid to pick up a reliably Democratic state resulted in a late campaign stop in Minnesota on Sunday, where thousands of his supporters filled a hangar at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport. With a large contingent unable to get inside,Trump said it would be a mistake to count him out on election day.
Trump backers waited several hours for his personalized 757 jet to pull up in front of the giant hangar doors. In a touch of stagecraft, the New York real estate mogul made his fans wait a few minutes more before appearing at the plane's door with a wave and a double thumbs up.
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He then delivered a 40-minute call to action, complete with references to his opponent Hillary Clinton as crooked, the country's leaders as stupid, and the nation's current policies as misguided.
"This election will decide who runs this country, the corrupt political class or you the American people," he said. "She's with them, I'm with you."
His remarks focused on a range of Minnesota-specific concerns. Trump railed against trade deals that he said cost mine workers jobs. He promised to repeal a health care law being blamed for fast-rising insurance rates. And he criticized refugee resettlement policies that he said have fostered terrorists taking root in Minnesota.
Trump charged that too many Somali immigrants were admitted with faulty vetting, and who were later recruited by radical elements. "A Trump administration will not admit any refugees without the support of the local communities where they are being placed," he said. "It's the least they could do for you. You've suffered enough in Minnesota."
Trump's proposed ban on refugees from Syria and other troubled areas of the world has been controversial throughout the campaign.
The candidate's stop in Minnesota was something of a surprise. No independent poll has shown him ahead here or even particularly close. A Republican hasn't carried the state since Richard Nixon in 1972 — 10 elections in a row.
Trump said he'll pull off an upset.
"I came to Minnesota. I took so much heat. They all said on television, 'What is he coming to Minnesota?'"
As he often does, Trump marveled at the size of his crowd, and it was big. The boisterous audience spilled outside of the airport hangar. Some people parked their cars in ditches along the roads and climbed over fences to get to the rally. Thousands had arrived hours before Trump was to appear, and security lines stretched as far as the eye could see.
Republican Party of Minnesota Chair Keith Downey said 17,000 requests for tickets were made in advance, but fewer showed up to the rally that conflicted with the Vikings game.
Trump criticized organizers who left an overflow crowd standing outside. "Who is the genius who set this up?" he asked.
Downey said Republicans who had wavered on Trump were coming home.
"We just needed to be patient. People supported other candidates very passionately, they believe passionately in their ideas and in their campaigns," Downey said. "It just takes time for people. Taking time can be literally all the way up to Election Day."
It wasn't just Republicans turning out. Mary Leslie, a self-described Libertarian from Minneapolis, said she'll cast a vote for president for the first time in her 56 years — for Trump.
"It's a miracle here, there's so much energy and everyone is out," Leslie said. "I'm coming out for Trump."
Bob Anderson said he's aligned more with the Independence Party, home to former Gov. Jesse Ventura. He voted for independent Ross Perot when he ran in the 1990s, but is all in for Trump because of his business acumen and outsider appeal.
"I've always paid attention. I've always voted. But this is the first time in my adult life I've been excited to vote for president. Ross Perot got me a little fired up back in the day," Anderson said. "But when I listened to Donald Trump announce his candidacy, I was hooked."
He added, "The country underestimates the power of the movement. We finally have an outsider that is taking on the establishment and he is blowing it up."
Trump garb and his trademark "Make America Great Again" hats were everywhere throughout the crowd. And then there was Cole Uhde, 14, from Rochester, who dressed as Trump from his solid red tie to the dyed-blond hair.
"This is to show how much I love Donald Trump," Uhde said. "He's strong on the borders, he's good with jobs, as a businessman he knows how to get things done, and he's not a politician."
Kathy Wehmhoff, a state employee from Apple Valley, said Trump has gotten a bad rap for his off-color comments and demeanor, but she considers the Clintons to be worse.
"Donald Trump may be a pig and he may be lewd, but he's a guy and he knows how to get things done," she said. "That's what I like about him. He's built hundreds and hundreds of businesses — successful ones, some not so successful. He's taken advantage of the laws that are in place. He's going to close the borders. He's going to do exactly what it is he promises to do. I believe him. I trust him."
There was no major protest presence at the secure event, but a handful of Trump opponents engaged his supporters as they exited. It was more a debate than confrontation.
State Democrats held their own events around Minnesota while Trump was in town. They used the Trump stop to remind voters of low points in his campaign and expressed confidence that Clinton would prevail.
At a rally in Grand Rapids, DFL Chair Ken Martin suggested one Trump rally couldn't compete with the legwork of his party."We have thousands of people literally right now on the doors communicating with voters."
During a news conference held Sunday before Trump's rally, House Minority leader Paul Thissen said he didn't think Trump's last minute stop would do much to sway voters. "A last-minute fly-by is not going to decide this election. Rallies and speeches will not decide this election," Thissen said. "Real Minnesotans will, with their voice and with their vote."
Clinton hasn't campaigned in Minnesota for months, and the state was not thought to be a battleground compared with bigger prizes, such as Florida, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
Minnesota Republicans will get at least one more taste of the party presidential ticket. Vice presidential nominee Mike Pence is due in Duluth on Monday morning.