Trump endorses Jensen as GOP makes late play in Minnesota governor's race

Former President Donald Trump endorsed Scott Jensen, the Republican candidate for Minnesota governor, as a national GOP group makes a late move to influence the race.

"Minnesota finally has a chance to have a great Governor. His name is Dr. Scott Jensen, the Republican Gubernatorial Candidate, and he will bring Minnesota back from the brink," Trump said on Truth Social, the social media platform he founded last year.

A Trump endorsement fires up the GOP's base, though many would've voted for Jensen anyway. It could have the opposite effect on moderate voters in a state Trump lost by 233,000 votes in 2020. Jensen downplayed Trump's endorsement, saying he hadn't asked for it. 

"While we have not actively sought the endorsement of political leaders, we are grateful for those who have recognized our ability to lead and Heal Minnesota," Jensen said in an overnight statement.

DFL Gov. Tim Walz continues to lead Jensen, but the race has tightened in recent weeks. On Tuesday, the Republican Governors Association sent $750,000 in, funneling the money through a newly formed in-state group called Heal Minnesota. The money will pay for television ads that start Thursday and run through Election Day, according to federal filings. 

As Walz held his lead throughout the summer and fall, national Republican groups avoided the race while spending their money on more competitive contests elsewhere. The RGA will spend at least $1.5 million on ads here before Election Day, a GOP source said. The late spending, while significant, still lags what Democratic groups have spent on Walz's behalf.

Walz responded to the news with a fundraising appeal to supporters.

"This race is close and we need to finish strong over these next 13 days to power our campaign to victory," he tweeted Wednesday.

On the campaign trail, reporters have occasionally asked Jensen how much he wanted a Trump endorsement. In August, he waved off a FOX 9 question about whether he'd gone to Mar-a-Lago to meet with Trump.

"I don’t even know where it is, but I’ve been to Disney World," Jensen said. "I’ve never met him, never had direct contact with him." 

A Jensen spokesman said a Trump rally in Minnesota is unlikely. Jensen is scheduled to rally with Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds in Golden Valley on Monday night. Reynolds is in the Twin Cities for a GOP fundraiser that day.

Minnesota Democrats criticized Jensen over the endorsement and said it was a reason for voters to re-elect DFL Gov. Tim Walz.

"Scott Jensen has embraced the Big Lie, even calling for throwing our Secretary of State in jail. Now, Donald Trump has rewarded him with an endorsement," DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin said in a statement. 

In May, Jensen said Secretary of State Steve Simon should "maybe better check out to see if you look good in stripes, because you've gotten away with too much, too long." Jensen has criticized Simon for agreeing to a settlement with liberal voter groups to lift some early voting restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Simon has said the temporary move was appropriate given the health crisis.

Jensen is the second Minnesota Republican that Trump has endorsed this week. On Tuesday, he backed secretary of state candidate Kim Crockett.