President Donald Trump was on the ground in Bemidji for a rally Friday, hours after Democratic challenger Joe Biden flew into Duluth to meet with union members who could be a bulwark of DFL support in an increasingly Republican swath of northern Minnesota.
While Biden met with a group of labor leaders at the Jerry Alander Carpenter Training Center in Hermantown, the Trump campaign prepared for a larger airport rally in Bemidji, an area that supported him overwhelmingly in 2016, though he narrowly lost the state to Hillary Clinton.
The same-day visits to Minnesota by two major party presidential candidates marked the start of early voting in a Midwestern battleground state that both campaigns see as potentially decisive in November.
“It’s time to take the country back folks, and it’s going start here, today with voting in Minnesota,” Biden said, making his first appearance in the state as the Democratic nominee.
Biden’s tour of the union training center was meant to underscore his plan to promote American made goods and services.
While talking to other carpenters and receiving a welding demonstration, Biden said “This is the stuff that’s going to put a lot of people to work.”
He also talked about his made in America mandate for federal procurement. “It has to be made in the United States of America,” he said, “For real.”
At one point, Biden, tieless, swapped out a cloth mask that appeared to be slipping down his face. He changed into a surgical mask.
Speaking to a small group of workers and politicians after the tour, Biden focused heavily on jobs, labor and infrastructure, pledging to make union workers centerpiece of the post-pandemic economic recovery. “I’ll fight, fight for workers and unions every step of the way,” he said.
Biden also contrasted his working class roots to Trump’s wealthy upbringing in New York City. “I think this campaign is between Scranton and Park Avenue,” he said, making a reference to his boyhood home in Pennsylvania.
Throughout the 40-minute speech, the former vice president criticized Trump as a divisive and “vindictive” leader, saying he prioritized tax cuts for the wealthy instead of helping working people.
Among those Biden met with were John Raines, executive secretary-treasurer of the North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters, and Matt Companario, executive director of all areas except Eastern Iowa, Minnesota Floor Covering, and Greater Wisconsin.
Also speaking alongside Biden was Minnesota U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, whose family has roots on the Iron Range.
Before Biden arrived, the Trump campaign released a letter from three Iron Range mayors extolling the president’s support for mining: “As a result of the Trump Administration’s policies, our communities were given a much needed shot in the arm so that our towns can roar back to life — and there is no one we Rangers trust to bring about the great American comeback more than President Donald Trump,”
The letter was signed by Mayors Chris Vreeland of Hoyt Lakes, Kathy Brandau of Winton, and Tony Nygaard of McKinley.
The president was expected to land in Minnesota later in the afternoon.
Both campaigns encountered protests. In Hermantown, Biden was greeted by a few dozen Trump supporters waving flags and signs set up along the road outside the training center, In Bemidji, a crowd of Biden supporters waving signs and flags lined the main drag hours before Trump’s arrival.