ST. PAUL — President Donald Trump is set to rally in Minneapolis Thursday, Oct. 10, in support of his bid for reelection.
It's the president's first public rally since the Congressional impeachment inquiry got underway and is set to take place in the district of one of his biggest political nemeses — U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar — in a state that he vowed to flip in 2020.
More than a year ahead of the election, Trump and his allies prepared to make a two-day splash in the state. Vice President Mike Pence was slated to appear at an event in a Twin Cities suburb Thursday afternoon before joining Trump for the evening rally. And a day prior, Second Lady Karen Pence and Lara Trump, Trump's daughter-in-law, were set to hold a panel discussion with women interested in helping reelect the president in St. Paul.
The combined efforts are part of Trump's push to snap Minnesota's longest-in-the-nation streak of supporting Democratic presidential candidates in 2020. The president repeatedly said he hopes to flip the state, which came within 1.5 percentage points of electing him in 2016.
"I know that there is a lot of optimism, enthusiasm and energy for their prospects of winning Minnesota in 2020," Minnesota GOP Chair Jennifer Carnahan said. "We know that they are committed to Minnesota, but I think when you have 20,000 people in an arena, they hear firsthand how important they are, how important the state is, and I think that really can impact people in a much more emotional and strong way."
Trump's campaigning could bolster Republican candidates and officeholders seeking reelection in 2020. But Democratic-Farmer-Labor leaders this week also used the event to raise money to block Trump's reelection bid in Minnesota. That effort gained the attention of celebrities like Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Alyssa Milano, Patton Oswalt and George Takei. A party spokesperson said 850 donors contributed as of Tuesday afternoon.
“Donald Trump made a lot of promises to folks that he didn’t deliver on," Minnesota DFL Chair Ken Martin said. "What we’re going to focus on is reminding folks here that, sure, there’s all the impeachment stuff, there are all the really bizarre statements that have really crossed the line: racist, xenophobic statements that have no place in our politics ... but really what we need to not lose sight of is that people want to see a lot of these issues addressed, and he’s doing nothing to address them."
The Target Center has the capacity to hold 20,000 people, and groups planning to hold protests in the area said they expected tens of thousands ahead of the event Thursday. After a dust-up over security and event fees, the rally appeared on track to take place as of Tuesday afternoon.
Just after Trump announced the visit last month, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey in a statement said the city doesn't have a mechanism to block the president from coming, but wouldn't accept his rhetoric. In the weeks that followed, the Minneapolis Police Department created a policy blocking off-duty police officers from wearing their uniforms to the rally. And on Monday, Oct. 7, the city pressed the Trump campaign to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in security costs for the rally upfront.
Several other cities that have hosted Trump campaign rallies have been left to foot the bill for security after the president leaves town, according to the Center for Public Integrity. Among them are Rochester and Duluth, which have not yet been paid back $90,000 and $69,000 respectively for previous events.
The Trump campaign threatened to sue the city and AEG Worldwide, the company that manages the Target Center, for forcing the campaign to pay the security and public works expenses before the rally or risk having the event blocked.
Frey, a Democrat, doubled down on the requirement that Trump pay $540,000 before the rally, a new standard for candidates holding events in the city ahead of the 2020 election. He said it wasn't tied to politics, but to cover overtime for police officers staffing the rally and for public works efforts to get the area ready for thousands of attendees and protesters.
“It’s not extortion to expect someone to pay their bills," Frey said Tuesday.
But the Trump campaign and GOP officials in the state said the moves specific to the president's rally were political in nature and were made in an effort to prevent Trump's visit. Previous visits by elected officials, including former presidents, have carried far lower price tags.
Brad Parscale, Trump's 2020 campaign manager, in a statement Tuesday afternoon said the rally was on and that the campaign "has not agreed to pay any additional funds."