Biden, Trump prevail in Minnesota while facing deep cracks in their party bases

People look at an election results website
DFL activist Samuel Doten (center) calculates how many delegates the Uncommitted Campaign won after results showed over 40,000 people voted uncommitted in the DFL state primary at a results party for the Uncommitted Campaign in south Minneapolis on Tuesday.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump won presidential primary elections Tuesday in Minnesota that highlighted fissures both face within their parties as the country moves toward a rematch of the 2020 race.

Biden received 70 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary while Trump received 69 percent in the Republican primary. 

At a church in Forest Lake in the northern Twin Cities suburbs, Katie Thacker brought her daughter along as she voted for Biden.

“Reproductive rights are very important to me. Also, just civil rights in general are really important because I have a daughter, obviously,” Thacker said. “And I think it’s important for her to see that we have a voice in all of this as well.”

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Richard Arvig was at the same polling place and said he wants Trump back in the White House. 

“We need somebody tough. We don’t need anybody that consistently lies to us and can’t defend the country. They defend other countries. Defend other country’s borders but they leave ours alone? That’s not right,” Arvig said.

A person stands next to a voting booth.
Charlotte Engebret casts her vote at United Methodist Church during the Super Tuesday.
Kerem Yücel | MPR News

Across Minnesota, those dueling views were on display. But below the surface, it became clear that neither Biden nor Trump notched runaway victories. 

While Biden dealt Minnesota Rep. Dean Phillips a loss in his home state — Phillips got about 8 percent — it was the vote for no one at all that speaks louder. 

The push to get people to mark “uncommitted” attracted nearly 19 percent of the vote. That showing statewide along with stronger results in urban congressional districts will result in some delegates to the Democratic National Convention that won’t be bound to Biden.

The uncommitted movement was in large part fueled by disapproval of Biden’s posture toward the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza and his inability to help broker a lasting cease-fire.

At a small watch party in Minneapolis, organizers and supporters of the grassroots organization huddled around a TV screen hooked up to a computer as the results were refreshed. They claimed victory.

People hold hands and cheer
Lead organizer Asma Mohammed (center) reacts with community supporter Janette Corcelius (left) as the uncommitted votes surpass 30,000 across Minnesota in the DFL primary during a results party in Minneapolis on Tuesday.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

Asma Mohammed with Uncommitted Minnesota said the group surpassed its goals; the uncommitted option netted nearly 46,000 votes, or about 19 percent. It follows a similar effort in Michigan that has become a model for others working to force Biden to do more to stop the fighting in the Middle East.

“I think Michigan really showed people what is in the realm of possible: If we stick together, if we get organized as Democrats that we can have a better candidate,” Mohammed said. “That Joe Biden can do better and we can be better in November.”

Ninety-two delegates will represent Minnesota at the Democratic National Convention this August in Chicago. Based on the state’s primary results, the bulk will be required to vote for Joe Biden on the first nominating ballot.

But eleven of the delegates will go to the convention as “uncommitted.” That makes them free agents. Out of the states that have voted so far, Minnesota has the most uncommitted delegates tied to the primary outcome.

A i voted sticker upside down
Imam Hassan Jama talks to the media while sporting an “I voted” sticker turned upside during a results party for the Uncommitted Campaign.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, who has said little about the Israel-Hamas war hitting hardest in Gaza, commented on the protest vote last night on CNN. He called the situation in Gaza “intolerable” and said the voters’ concerns were being heard.

“That’s what they should be doing. We’ve gone through this before and we know that now we make sure we’ve got 8 months, we start bringing these folks back in, we listen to what they are saying,” he said. “That’s a healthy thing that’s happening.”

On the Republican side of things, Trump’s win was not a sweep by any means. 

Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley garnered nearly 30 percent of the vote. She will gain delegates from Minnesota at the Republican National Convention.

Polls open in Bloomington.
“I voted” stickers lay ready to be handed out to voters at a polling place during Super Tuesday primary voting on at United Methodist Church in Bloomington.
Kerem Yücel | MPR News

Edward Letts of Baxter voted for her. He said he’s a Republican who can’t stomach Trump and is torn over how to approach the November election rematch between Biden and Trump.

“I don’t know what I’ll do,” he said. “I really don’t know who I’ll choose.”

Trump backers say they're locked in — even if the former president is convicted of criminal charges he faces. 

Les Lodewyck, who voted at the same polling place as Letts, said Trump might be “crude, rude and obnoxious,” but he's still the outsider who can shake up Washington.

“I laughed when he was first chosen the first time. I'm like you gotta be kidding me then I started seeing how they treated him,” Lodewyck said, adding, “Only in America, twice in my lifetime, we’re going to have some TV celebrity be a president – Reagan and now this guy. I hate to say it, he got everything back on track.”

Minnesota has been in the Democratic column for president every time since 1976, the longest party streak anywhere. Trump lost it twice but his campaign believes he can make a run at it against an unpopular incumbent.

Democrats say they're bracing for that challenge in a state they regard as a must-win for Biden.

“This will be a battleground and we’ll do everything we can as a DFL to make sure we deliver all 10 electoral votes to Joe Biden,” said DFL Party Chair Ken Martin.