Minn. Trump supporters say they trust him on the economy

A Trump supporter holds up four fingers, chanting "Four More Years."
Andrea (last name withheld) holds up four fingers and chanted "Four More Years" as Trump supporters lined the road near the Mankato airport on Monday during the President's visit.
Jackson Forderer for MPR News)

Top Trump campaign officials are sounding confident about the president’s prospects this fall in Minnesota.

“Come November, we expect to see Minnesota in the Trump column,” senior Trump campaign adviser Katrina Pierson said to supporters at a Trump campaign office in Eagan, Minn., last week.

Four years ago the Trump campaign had just one employee in Minnesota. This time there are more than 50 staffers in the state, some of whom have been here for more than a year organizing volunteers and contacting supporters, according to Republican Party of Minnesota Chair Jennifer Carnahan.

Republican Party of Minnesota Chair Jennifer Carnahan.
Brian Bakst | MPR News 2016

“We’re doing everything and above,” Carnahan said. “We’re doing all of the traditional, core areas of field campaigning which is going and talking to voters at their doors, making phone calls, but we’re also using all the new technologies as well.”

Four years ago Joe Lendacky, who runs a plumbing and heating business outside of Duluth, Minn., said he was supporting Trump because Trump was a political outsider.

Four years later, Lendacky has no regrets.  

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“The way that his administration has been set up works. It makes sense — it doesn’t make cents, it makes dollars — I mean the economy took off,”  Lendacky said.

The economy appears to be a core issue for many Trump supporters. National polls show an advantage for the president over Democrat Joe Biden on the economy, even as he trails on other issues.

Kathy Anderson of White Bear Lake voted for Trump in 2016 and said she plans to do so again this year. 

Despite the economic collapse and spike in unemployment because of the COVID-19 pandemic, she said she's doing well.

“I really saw my 401K just go crazy,” Anderson said.

Although she’s supporting Trump, Anderson said she is not impressed with the president’s response to the pandemic and a number of other things.

“He really does not uphold the honor of the office,” Anderson said.  “He just shoots from the hip. He doesn’t think.”

Marilyn Geller
Marilyn Geller.
Courtesy photo

Marilyn Geller, a retired daycare provider who lives in northern Minnesota outside of Bemidji, typically votes for Democrats, but she cast a ballot for Trump in 2016. She thought Trump’s business background would suit him well to shore up immigration and national security concerns.

“I thought at that time that he was very intelligent,” Geller said.

Geller won’t vote for Trump again this year.

“I thought he would know how to deal with things like that, but now I’m just disappointed,” Geller said. “To me, it’s his lack of respect for the office he holds.”

Geller says now she’ll do what she can to defeat Trump in November.

Trump supporters often point to his narrow loss in Minnesota four years ago as they optimistically assess his chances of flipping the state this year.  It’s true he lost by fewer than 45,000 votes out of nearly 2.7 million cast. But Democratic voter turnout in 2016 was down significantly from the previous presidential election.

Recent polls show Biden running slightly ahead of Trump in Minnesota. While some Trump supporters are exceedingly vocal about their politics, Kathy Anderson — the Trump backer from White Bear Lake — said many others are not, making it difficult to quantify his standing among voters.

“The people on the right don’t advertise that they’re voting for Trump because you are vilified,” Anderson said. “You are considered a person who hates everybody.”