Karen Pence: Minnesota will 'make a real difference' in 2020 race

Two people walk off a plane
Second lady Karen Pence and Vice President Mike Pence walk off of Air Force 2 en route to President Trump's rally at the Target Center in October.
Carlos Gonzalez | AP 2019

Karen Pence stood in for Vice President Mike Pence at a campaign event Thursday in St. Paul, where she underscored the attention that the Republican ticket will place on Minnesota this fall.

“Make no mistake about it. Minnesota, you know this is going to be one of the states to make a real difference in this election,” Pence, the nation’s second lady, told a couple hundred people in a hotel ballroom. “Each one of you here plays a very critical role.”

She was the featured speaker at the Trump campaign reelection rally. The vice president had been scheduled to appear but traveled instead to Washington state to monitor developments around the coronavirus spread.

Karen Pence said her husband, who toured Maplewood-based 3M earlier in the day before heading to the West Coast, said he’s concentrating his time on the administration’s COVID-19 response.

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“The safety and the security, the health of the American people is the priority. That is the priority. So above campaign events and politics, that is where the vice president had to be tonight,” she said.

Still, Mrs. Pence said Minnesota is an unmistakable focus of the president’s reelection campaign.

“It is imperative that we get this president reelected. It is imperative that we win Minnesota,” Pence said. ”So I encourage you to spread the news.”

Trump’s campaign has been hiring staff and opening offices in Minnesota in anticipation of a hard push in the reliably Democratic state. He lost the state by about 44,000 votes in 2016 despite having a small footprint and making only a late visit.

Minnesota hasn’t gone for a Republican presidential hopeful since 1972.

Another sign of Minnesota’s status as a 2020 battleground emerged Thursday.

The Democratic-aligned Alliance for a Better Minnesota said it would spend at least $1 million on an ad campaign it was calling “Minnesota vs. Trump.” The group’s spending comes early in the campaign and as Democrats are working to decide who their nominee will be.

State Democratic officials have been fretting about Trump’s head start on the fall race, but they expect more organization and resources to flow on their side once a nominee is determined.

In 20 minutes of remarks, Karen Pence ran through a litany of accomplishments she said would sway voters in November, from trade to the economy to national security.

“He is a president of action. But he is also a president of results,” she said.

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Jason Lewis, who has Trump’s endorsement, was on hand for a roundtable with Pence prior to her public remarks and spoke ahead of her at the rally.

“We are at an inflection point in Minnesota and across this country,” Lewis told the crowd.