Biden, Trump hold dueling rallies in Minnesota

A combination photo of two men.
Former Vice President Joe Biden held an afternoon drive-in rally in St. Paul on Friday, while President Donald Trump spoke at the Rochester International Airport.

Updated: 7:27 p.m.

Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden delivered what could be their final in-person pitches to Minnesota voters Friday, speaking before relatively small crowds in a race both constrained and defined by the coronavirus pandemic.

President Trump’s surprisingly short remarks included harsh critiques of Democratic state officials he blamed for squelching a larger closing rally at Rochester’s airport. Former Vice President Biden’s drive-in speech in a parking lot by the State Fair was filled with car honking from supporters and noisemaking by a contingent of Trump backers on the other side of a fence.

That Minnesota was host to dueling visits on the final weekend of the campaign speaks to the narrowing playing field for the candidates in their hunt for the necessary 270 electoral votes. Minnesota was among the closest states in 2016 but stayed in the Democratic column even as much of the Upper Midwest was painted Trump red.

Biden stopped twice through Minnesota over the past two months, and implored his supporters not to take any state for granted in the four days remaining. He said once the election is over, the nation must reunite.

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“I will work as hard for those who don’t support me as for those who do. That’s the job of a president. It’s a duty of care for everyone,” Biden said. “And you too have a sacred duty — the duty to vote. It matters. Minnesota matters.”

In Rochester, Trump addressed a group of supporters who gathered outside the airport venue before his prepared remarks. His unusually short speech was to a crowd capped at 250 people due to COVID-19 restrictions. Republicans signed a contract that they would heed the limit after a private venue that was set up for thousands fell through.

Suzie Owen, 59,  was hoping to talk her way into the rally. She was just outside the airport fence with several  hundred others who could not get in.

People stand in front of chairs as the sun sets.
Supporters of President Donald Trump stand for the Pledge of Allegiance before a rally for the President in Rochester, Minn. on Friday.
Evan Frost | MPR News

"I'm here to support Trump and make sure he gets into office four more years. And he better make it. We're going to do it for sure,” she said. "We need his strength."

Trump blasted Attorney General Keith Ellison and Gov. Tim Walz, both Democrats, for having “tried to shut down our rally, silence the people of Minnesota and take away your freedom and your rights. They thought he would cancel.”

He said it would backfire, proclaiming “four days from now we're going to win the state of Minnesota.”

Both state leaders have denied pressuring Trump’s campaign while urging they heed state restrictions.

“Governor Walz thanks President Trump for finally following public health guidance at a campaign rally,” Walz spokesperson Teddy Tschann said.

At the Biden event, cars started to gather early Friday afternoon in a lot near the fair’s Grandstand.

Vice President Joe Biden holds rally in St. Paul
by Brian Bakst | MPR News

"We're sitting in a parking lot in our cars about 10 feet from the nearest car. Done very responsibly, I'm very pleased to see that. Probably about 50 feet from the stage. The band was warming up so we have good sound here, so we're looking forward to it,” said Mark Intermill of Robbinsdale, one of those invited to attend the Biden event.

Intermill’s wife, Nancy, said she was more motivated to defeat Trump as she is to get Biden into the White House.

“Yeah, my scale pushes over to get rid of Trump. I just really cannot tolerate him being there. I really just can’t tolerate him being there,” she said. “I’m very excited about Biden but we’ve got to get rid of Trump.”

As Biden spoke, a group of Trump supporters waved flags and blared horns.

“These guys are not very polite. They’re like Trump,'“ Biden said. “That’s OK. We’re going to take care of them too.”

He urged his own supporters to make noise with their car horns.

“Honk if you want Americans to trust each other again,” he said. “Honk if you want America to be united again.”

Neither Trump nor Biden is currently scheduled to return to Minnesota before Election Day.

Trump Rally Goers
Rally goers outside President Trump's rally in Rochester, Minn.
Kathryn Styer Martinez | MPR News

Trump rallies are among the nation's biggest events being held in defiance of crowd restrictions designed to stop the virus from spreading. This at a time when public health experts are advising people to think twice even about inviting many guests for Thanksgiving dinner.

MPR News reporter Mark Zdechlik talks with Trump supporters in Rochester
by MPR News

“It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are, when you have congregate settings where people are crowded together and virtually no one is wearing a mask, that’s a perfect setup to have an outbreak of acquisition and transmissibility,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, recently told Yahoo News. “It's a public health and scientific fact.”

Watch the rally videos for Biden and Trump

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.