President Donald Trump addressed a crowd of supporters in Mankato Monday, covering a wide range of issues ahead of the November 3 election.
The president was speaking outside North Star Aviation, a short time after a brief appearance at MSP Airport in the Twin Cities, and he touched on subjects including Iron Range mining, farming, COVID-19, mail-in ballots, and the economy.
Having lost the state to Hillary Clinton narrowly by 1.5 percent in 2016, Trump says he's confident of turning Minnesota red for the first time since Richard Nixon in 1972.
He repeatedly criticized his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, and bemoaned the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on what he describes as the "greatest economy" prior to the outbreak of what he referred to as the "China virus."
"We built the greatest economy in the history of the world and now we're going to do it again," he said. "That's God testing me."
He also joked about running for a 3rd or 4th term, and suggested he would ban refugee resettlement in Minnesota, to cheers from his supporters.
President addresses COVID-19 response
Trump defended his administration's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, saying he took quick action to shut down borders to travelers from China and Europe, and increased manufacturing of ventilators.
But the federal response to COVID-19 has been regularly criticized, with critics saying the president and his administration didn't take it seriously enough early on and failed to enact a national strategy to limit its spread.
The U.S. has seen 170,000 deaths from COVID-19, more than any other nation, while the U.S. ranks 10th in the per-capita death rate globally.
The president switched his focus to other countries and their efforts to contain the virus, noting that New Zealand's 102-day COVID-free run has come to an end and it's now seeing a "surge."
New Zealand has seen a recent increase in COVID cases, and there are currently 78 active cases in the island nation. Minnesota reported 564 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday alone.
Trump went on to say, without evidence, that his election rival Biden "wants to lock all Americans in their basement for months on end," and claims that by contrast his administration is following a "data-driven and science-driven response."
Focus on mail-in ballots
Amid ongoing controversy over the federal funding of the U.S. Postal Service, with Democrats accusing the Trump Administration of undermining and underfunding the service in an attempt to suppress the vote in November, the president claimed he is trying to "strengthen the post office," which he says has been a "disaster for decades."
He also repeated his criticism of mail-in ballots, suggesting that the expansion of which will result in a "rigged election," but did say that he approves of voting via absentee ballots.
In any case, the process of verifying absentee ballots and mail-in ballots in states that have the latter are the same, and numerous studies have found there to be no historical evidence of widespread voter fraud. Even an investigation by a voting-integrity commission created by the Trump Administration was unable to find evidence of widespread voting fraud.
Absentee ballots are available to anyone who physically can't vote in-person on election day, with 45 states currently offering absentee voting, 29 of which – including Minnesota – do not require you to have an excuse to vote by mail (ie. such as fear of COVID-19).
By contrast, only five states have an "all-mail voting" system whereby voters automatically receive a ballot in the mail."
Trump touts Iron Range credentials
The president made several references to his efforts to help the Iron Range since he took office in 2017.
Exports and production in the Iron Range has increased after the president placed additional tariffs on steel imports on top of the tariffs already implemented by former President Barack Obama, to combat the practice of illegal "dumping" of low-priced steel by other countries.
"I saw what was happening and did something about it," Trump said, claiming that Biden would "shut down the Iron Range" if elected, though Biden's election plan includes a promise to use American-made steel for infrastructure projects, and will pressure other nations not to devalue steel prices.
He also made a pitch to Minnesota's farming industry, which has been hard-hit by the trade war with China that saw retaliatory tariffs imposed on crops including soybeans, though the president had happier news to share with the fact China made a record corn and soybean order from the U.S. just a month ago.
Praise for local politicians, MyPillow CEO
Among the Minnesota Republicans getting shoutouts on Thursday were Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka and House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt.
He also called out 5th District GOP candidate Lacy Johnson, who will face Ilhan Omar this November, with Trump referring to Omar as "a horrible woman who hates our country."
He also had praise for Shakopee entrepreneur Mike Lindell, the CEO of MyPillow, who is the chairman of the campaign to re-elect the president in Minnesota, with Trump saying: "When I sleep I'm using his pillow."