National parties focus on normally blue Minnesota as election nears

The heads of both national parties campaigned in dueling rallies at the state Capitol on Friday as Republicans seek to make inroads in normally blue Minnesota while Democrats try to keep their hold on statewide races.

Democrats pulled their campaign bus up to the Capitol as a backdrop for an event in the cold morning air. U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith and Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison joined them before the statewide slate of candidates went to southern Minnesota to start a four-day bus tour.

"The entire country is looking at what happens right here in Minnesota," Harrison told a crowd of party faithful. Asked later if his last-minute trip meant Democrats here were in trouble, Harrison told reporters they were misreading the situation.

After Democrats left on their bus tour, Republicans held their own rally in the Capitol rotunda with GOP Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel. Governor candidate Scott Jensen and running mate Matt Birk joined her.

"We can turn Minnesota red! We can," McDaniel told supporters. Afterward, she told reporters she wouldn't have made the trip if Republicans couldn't win the governor's race.

The rallies underscored the tension in the final days before Tuesday's election. Republicans sense their best chance to win a statewide election since 2006 amid economic uncertainty and Democrats' midterm headwinds. Democrats acknowledge this year's results will be closer than when they swept into power in 2018 but expect that they can win all four statewide races.

Nearly $50 million has been spent on the races for governor, attorney general, secretary of state, and auditor, according to analyses done by FOX 9 and tracking websites on campaign finance data and television ad reservations.

DFL Gov. Tim Walz, who a day earlier declared to reporters that he would win Tuesday's election, told activists at Friday's rally that they could hold together the coalition that's made Minnesota a blue state.

"We’ve got four days to control our own destiny. We’ve got four days to write that history. We’ve got four days to keep a team together that shares your values," Walz said.

Jensen, Walz's challenger, held his own news conference in the basement of the Capitol in between the Democrats' and Republicans' rallies. The national attention on Minnesota is a good sign for him, Jensen said.

"We have more of the big names, more of the millions of dollars being plowed in, I think that tells you that the Democrats understand this is a tight race," Jensen said. "I think Minnesotans are, literally in an electrified way, they are engaged like I’ve certainly never seen before."

The DFL bus tour has stops scheduled in southern Minnesota, Duluth, and the Twin Cities metro over the next four days. Jensen said he would campaign exclusively in the seven-county metro between now and Monday.

Walz leads Jensen in public polling, but the DFL has lost its lead in some other races. Republican attorney general candidate Jim Schultz has been leading or tied with DFL incumbent Keith Ellison in their contest.

"We have got to close strong," Ellison told supporters after a series of events this week aimed at driving turnout among his base in Minneapolis and St. Paul. "This race will be tight, but it will be won this weekend, right here, right now — by you."

Schultz was campaigning separately from Jensen this weekend and has an event supporting police scheduled for Saturday afternoon in Chanhassen.

The Democrats' rally emphasized legislation approved by Congress and President Joe Biden on transportation and climate change. Speakers said that voting laws and abortion access were on the ballot across the country.

Meanwhile, Republicans said crime, inflation, and school performance were their top themes going into the campaign's final weekend.