As the convention approaches, some Minnesotans will cheer on Trump
ST. PAUL -- As a Minnesota delegate to the Republican National Convention, Charlie Strickland is a distinct minority: He wholeheartedly supports Donald Trump."He is new to the game, and he has an economic sense that would be good for the United S...
ST. PAUL - As a Minnesota delegate to the Republican National Convention, Charlie Strickland is a distinct minority: He wholeheartedly supports Donald Trump.
“He is new to the game, and he has an economic sense that would be good for the United States,” Strickland said.
As an African-American man in 99 percent white Ogilvie, Minnesota, Strickland is used to being in the minority. But, he is also a believer.
“We’re gonna win this thing,” he said of the presidential race. “I do believe that.”
Republicans have struggled with Trump becoming their putative party leader. The vast majority of Minnesota delegates to the national convention supported someone else to be president, with Republican officials backing away from the businessman.
But the mogul from New York, known for shocking with his statements and policy proposals, has strong support from pockets of voters around the country and even in Minnesota, which has not voted for a Republican for president since it went for Richard Nixon in 1972.
“He is really tapping into a lot of frustration that not only Republicans and independents have but also old-school DFL Democrats have,” said Stewart Mills, a Republican running against Democratic U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan.
Minnesota’s northern 8th Congressional District, which Mills is working to wrest from Nolan, is ripe territory for Trump support.
“People are angry, people are upset, and this is fertile ground for Donald Trump’s message up here,” said Mills, who will not attend the convention in Cleveland.
The population in the 8th is whiter and older than other districts of the state. It has a lower median income, according to Census numbers, and has struggled with unemployment or cyclical employment born of the international mining markets. Chatter there has long been hot about trade policy and over-regulation, issues Trump has hammered again and again.
“A lot of people are excited about his candidacy from what I see and hear,” said Ted Lovdahl, the longtime chairman of the Eighth District Republicans. “People are so sick and tired, how should I put it, (of) people running off their mouth and not doing anything.”
Democrats, who believe a Trump presidency would be disastrous, acknowledge that.
“He is hurting us in places where there are a lot of white working class voters,” said Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party chair Ken Martin. While Martin said he still expects Democrats will do well in Minnesota in November, he said Trump’s “popularity in greater Minnesota will create a little bit more of an uphill climb.”
Promises of change
Trump’s promises of wholesale change - from nearly everything politics has been about on both sides of the aisle - and requests that voters believe that he can bring it about have found purchase.
At the convention in Cleveland, Trump will get yet another national stage to promote those promises - and to assuage Republican fears that he may be a bigoted, unsteady wild card who cannot lead, as critics have contended.
He has promised a showbiz convention, the likes of which the country has rarely seen. But, in recent days, he and his campaign have also worked within the system to arrange the convention.
Last week, his supporters worked to make the party’s platform - the document that supposedly guides Republicans nationwide - over in his image. It now explicitly includes the wall Trump has long pledged to have built between Mexico and the United States. It also takes a more cynical stance on international trade pacts than previous Republican platforms and promises to put “America first” in negotiations.
His team and national Republicans also tamped down changes that would have made convention rules less friendly toward Trump.
In recent weeks, Trump has also given some more measured thoughts toward national events. While his social media accounts and some of his speeches have continued with the bombast for which he has become known, his statement in reaction to police shootings in Dallas and the shootings by police in Minnesota and Louisiana gave Republicans hope he could tone down his statements.
“We must restore law and order. We must restore the confidence of our people to be safe and secure in their homes and on the street,” he said in a statement. “The senseless, tragic deaths of two motorists in Louisiana and Minnesota reminds us how much more needs to be done. This morning I offer my thoughts and prayers for all of the victims’ families, and we pray for our brave police officers and first responders who risk their lives to protect us every single day.”
He also picked Indiana Gov. Mike Pence to run with him, a disciplined and a strict conservative, and appeared to be consolidating support from some traditional Republican voters.
Shift offers some comfort
Among Minnesota Republicans who feel they must, if begrudgingly, support Trump, the recent shift offers some comfort. It could give some strength to those who have long been intrigued with his message but worry about what RNC delegate and Trump supporter Barb Sutter calls his cringe-worthy statements.
“I have been very surprised for the past years that Americans in general haven’t been more vocal … about the fact that they feel that they are not being listened to whether it is the Democratic Party or the Republican Party,” said Sutter, a former candidate for the Legislature. Trump, she said, gives Americans the “pitchfork movement” for which they have been waiting.
Sutter, of Bloomington, said in the suburbs her Trump-backing still gives others a shock.
“There are people that have said, ‘You are too smart to be a Trump supporter,’ ” she said. “And I’ve had the other reaction that, ‘I am, too, but I didn’t want to say anything.’ ”