ROCHESTER, Minn.—Minnesotans are an independent bunch, so predicting the outcome of the midterm elections is more of a crapshoot here than for other states. It was the lone state that didn’t vote for former president Ronald Reagan’s re-election and has voted blue since Nixon’s 1972 victory.
In the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton won the state by 1.5 percent over President Donald Trump.
Casie Steeves, 31, lined up on a somewhat dismal afternoon on Oct. 4 to see Trump in action at a Make America Great Again rally.
She said since Trump’s slender loss in 2016, she has seen support grow for him.
“I think there’s more Trump supporters,” Steeves said. “I have a lot of friends that were on the line, or even very the opposite of me, that have kind of gotten a little bit closer.”
She attributes the move toward Trump to seeing policies in action and real change, which “has really changed their opinions.”
Steeves said she hasn’t noticed any movement toward the Democrats, but was hesitant to predict the outcome of the midterms, beyond saying, “I hope Minnesota turns red.”
She said she supports Trump on all his policies, especially in how he is trying to dismantle Obamacare, which caused her family’s health care costs to skyrocket. Under Trump, the costs have since decreased and leveled off.
‘Tough to Tell’
James J., who declined to give his full name, said it’s difficult to tell if Minnesotans have moved either way since the 2016 presidential election.
“In surrounding states, I think, things maybe have shifted away from [Hillary Clinton] hypothetically,” he said. “In Minnesota, it’s tough to tell.”
James, who works in the IT industry, said he usually votes in the midterms and will “certainly” do so this Nov. 6. He said he is “more conservative than just straight Republican now; when I was younger, more to middle or middle-left.”
Aside from the improved economy, he likes the way Trump is dealing with foreign affairs.
“While maybe looking indelicate at times, [Trump] seems to be very effective for us in that respect,” James said. “He seems to be quite effective—at least in the things that he’s pursued so far.”
Pat McDonough, 57, a Rochester local, was also reluctant to punt on the midterms, saying it could go either way. He doesn’t always participate in the midterms, but will definitely cast his vote this time, following party lines.
“There’s gonna be a lot depending on it,” he said, mentioning the control of Congress.
McDonough is an electronic technician at a large truck manufacturing plant, which he says is doing well due to the improved economy.
He’s not sure if the 1.5-percent gap between Trump and Clinton in 2016 has shifted either way.
“It looks good according to this rally, but you never know,” he said. “The people of Minnesota … It’s hard to tell which way they’re gonna go.”
John Cardarelli, 23, drove down with his wife from the White Bear Lake area for the rally. The nursing assistant supports Trump on immigration issues and shares his support of the Constitution.
As far as any blue-red shifts: “I think Minnesota as a state is probably still close to where it was during the last election,” he said. “But a midterm will be a good way to see how the next election could look like.”
In his area, Cardarelli said there is a lot of support for the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, which is affiliated with the Democrat Party.
The party states on its website, “For more than seventy years, the Minnesota DFL has worked tirelessly to enact progressive policies and provide a platform for those who need it the most.”
Cardarelli said he was inspired to come and see the president speak.
“I just thought it was pretty cool that he is coming into Minnesota—a state that’s usually so blue in elections.”
‘Time Is Money’
Kirsten N., a dental hygienist from the Twin Cities, said she has had a pay raise since Trump took office and her 401K is “going through the roof.”
“I support Trump because he’s doing good things for America,” she said. “I’ve liked everything he’s done so far, there really isn’t anything I could complain about.”
She said Trump is succeeding because of his more direct approach. “He doesn’t waste time. Time is money.”
Kirsten said Minnesota votes blue because the majority of the population that resides in the Twin Cities votes blue. “Anybody outside of the Twin Cities did not vote for Hillary,” she said of the 2016 election.
Joshua Hoyle, a finance manager for a car dealership, said he hopes Minnesotans will rally around the Republican candidates in the midterms, “but I guess only time will tell.”
He said Republicans seem energized to get out and vote.
“I hope that’s what we’re all doing here today is getting energized for that. I hope that’s why he’s here today. And we’re going to bring some more votes in, yeah you bet.”
Hoyle said Trump has done a good job of moving the country forward, especially with job growth, lowering unemployment, and boosting the economy.
He said business at the car dealership is brisk and remains unaffected by tariff wars.
Wilma Brazell and her husband traveled 100 miles from Iowa to attend the Trump rally—their third one.
“It is so great to come and see so many enthusiastic, patriotic Americans. We love it!” she said.
Brazell and her husband are retired farmers who see support for Trump growing, especially in the farming community.
“Because he cares for the people. He cares for us. He’s not dedicated to any other party really, but the American people,” she said.
“And he is really promoting peace in so many countries of the world, where there has been so much trouble. We’re very, very happy.”