When President Donald Trump rallies in Minnesota on Thursday he’ll bring not only his campaign roadshow to a state he nearly won in 2016, but a pressure cooker of conflicts ranging from battling House Democrats amid an escalating impeachment inquiry to now sparring with Republican allies over his decision to withdraw U.S. forces from northern Syria.
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After recent visits to other states the president lost in 2016 like New Hampshire and New Mexico, Thursday’s rally in Minneapolis is the latest example of the Trump campaign looking to expand their electoral map heading into 2020.
“[The president] would not come to a state and rally this early on unless he knew he could influence it and win it,” Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh told ABC News ahead of Thursday’s rally.
Evan Vucci/AP, FILE
President Donald Trump arrives to speak at his re-election kickoff rally at the Amway Center, in Orlando, Fla., June 18, 2019.
But perhaps more pressing, when Trump takes the stage Thursday night it’ll be the first time the president will pitch himself on the campaign trail amid an intensifying impeachment investigation push that continues to grow more popular with Americas and just days after the White House announced it would not cooperate with Democrats’ inquiry.
(MORE: Trump campaign turns impeachment inquiry into fundraising bonanza)
And despite polling showing public support for the impeachment probe is on the rise, the Trump campaign maintains the inquiry has only energized their supporters, arguing it provides an opportunity to convince voters who feel House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff’s approaches in the matter haven’t been fair and prove Democrats have been out to get the president since his election win.
The campaign is already hard at work testing that thesis in the blue state of Minnesota, pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars in ads and building out staff on the ground where Trump lost by just 1.5 votes in 2016.
“Last time in 2016 we had one paid staffer in Minnesota and he was eventually moved to Colorado,” Murtaugh said. “And now, at the moment we have 20 full time paid staffers and by Election Day we will have nearly 100,” he added, while also mentioning the campaign plans to spend tens of millions in the state ahead of 2020.
On top of bringing the president and Vice President Mike Pence to a rally at the Target Center, the campaign also put on a “Women for Trump” event on Wednesday in St. Paul hosted by the second lady, Karen Pence, and Lara Trump, the president’s daughter-in-law. The campaign and the Republican National Committee has also already dumped over $300,000 on the ads in the state fighting back against impeachment leading up to Thursday’s rally, according to Federal Communications Commission filings.
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images, FILE
President Donald Trump greets supporters during campaign MAGA (Make America Great Again) rally at Southern New Hampshire University Arena, in Manchester, N.H. on Aug. 15, 2019.
(MORE: As Biden weathers Trump’s criticism on Ukraine, supporters worry about possible impact on candidacy)
Minnesota represents a unique testing ground for a campaign fighting hard to prove it can not only flip the state next year but turn impeachment into an asset for the president.
And the campaign has already proved, at least early on, it can at least turn impeachment into cash — spending millions fundraising off Democrats’ newly launched inquiry in late September, and bringing in $8.5 million in the first 48 hours — 50,000 of which came from new donors, according to the campaign.
Thursday’s rally will also provide a slew of opportunities for the president to not only go on offense against his favorite 2020 Democratic targets like former Vice President Joe Biden who’s also engulfed in Trump’s Ukraine scandal, but also Minnesota congresswoman Ilhan Omar and Mayor Jacob Frey—who Trump’s already clashed with over a security fee dispute leading up to the campaign rally.
(MORE: For the 1st time, Biden says Trump should be ‘impeached’)
J. Scott Applewhite/AP
In this July 15, 2019, file photo, U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, second from left, speaks, as U.S. Reps., from left, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, listen, during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington.
Omar, who months earlier was on the receiving end of racist attacks from not only the president, who told the congresswoman and three of her peers to “go back” to their home countries, but also from Trump supporters at a rally in July whose chants of “send her back” were aimed at the Somali refugee who became a US citizen.
“Trump will see his rally in my district today as an opportunity to attack me,” Omar preemptively tweeted hours before Thursday’s rally. “But no smear will ever stop me from working toward what I’m in Congress to do,” the congresswoman added, listing off a number of goals she hopes to achieve including “impeach Trump.