REGIONAL— In a stunning upset, Republican Donald J. Trump swept most small cities and townships across northeastern Minnesota, marking the first time in generations that a GOP standard bearer has …
REGIONAL— In a stunning upset, Republican Donald J. Trump swept most small cities and townships across northeastern Minnesota, marking the first time in generations that a GOP standard bearer has carried a large swath of the region on Election Day.
Trump won in most locations, from the Canadian border right into the heart of the Iron Range, winning two of five precincts in the city of Virginia, long a DFL stronghold.
Trump also won in Ely, Tower, Orr, and the vast majority of rural townships across the region. The city of Cook was a rare exception, voting narrowly for Democrat Hillary Clinton (see precinct-by-precinct results on page 2).
Only a strong showing for Clinton in the Duluth area prevented Trump from winning the whole of St. Louis County, where Democratic candidates for president typically win by two-to-one margins or better. Larry Jacobs, Director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota’s Hubert H. Humphrey School, had predicted Trump would do much better than previous Republicans had managed to do in northeastern Minnesota. “Trump is appealing to working class whites, with his message about jobs and immigration, and about arrogant elites,” said Jacobs just ahead of Election Day. “His fundamental appeal is on economic issues, and that is a potent message.”
Statewide, it was one of the closest races since 1984, as Clinton’s strength in the Twin Cities metro region helped her overcome deficits almost everywhere else in the state. As of Wednesday, unofficial results had Clinton clinging to a 43,000 vote lead, with 1.364 million votes, or 46.4 percent to Trump’s 1.321 million, or 45 percent.
Across the normally Democratic-leaning Eighth Congressional District, it was Trump in a rout, as he carried nearly 54 percent of the vote to 38 percent for Clinton. That’s a margin that might have sunk Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan, who faced a strong challenge from millionaire Stewart Mills III, but he drew support from thousands of Trump voters in the district to edge Mills by just over 2,000 votes, or half a percent.
“We established a good record of effectiveness,” said Nolan, who had served two terms as Eighth District Congressman before Tuesday. “People know that and appreciate it,” he said.
The trade issue, which fueled Trump’s populist campaign in much of the Eighth, proved less effective for Mills. Nolan has built a reputation as a strong backer of the domestic steel industry and the region’s taconite mining industry. That helped him win the backing of steelworkers and others in the industry who credited Nolan with advancing a clamp down on foreign steel imports that has helped some Iron Range mining facilities get back up and running.
Mills ran into trouble late in the campaign as his comments in a Washington, D.C.-based publication appeared to defend Trump’s use of Chinese-made steel in some of his hotel projects. The race was among the most expensive House contests in the country, with outside groups pouring more than $10 million into the district on attack ads and mailers.
Nolan said he’s unsure what to expect from the president-elect, but he said he’ll be willing to work with him on issues— like enforcing fairer trade rules, ending American interventionism and investing in public infrastructure— where the two have areas of agreement. Trump has also railed against an electoral process that he believes is rigged by special interest money, which is an issue that Nolan has championed as well. “I’m looking forward to working with him [on such issues],” said Nolan. “If on the other hand, they want to turn Social Security over to Wall Street and Medicare back over to the insurance companies, I’m going to fight them on that.”