Two Republican candidates for statewide office in Minnesota had tepid reactions to late-in-the-campaign endorsements from former President Donald Trump.
Secretary of state nominee Kim Crockett issued a statement saying she was surprised by the endorsement. “I appreciate this unexpected vote of confidence.” But she quickly added that she would guard the vote for all voters “no matter one’s party affiliation.”
GOP nominee for governor Scott Jensen tried to steer the conversation away from Trump, calling it one of many endorsements he has gotten this month.
“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 early morning statement.
Why the lack of enthusiasm? An endorsement from the controversial president might have been helpful when both were trying to win the endorsement from a group of GOP delegates that remains dominated by Trump supporters. But in a general election, Trump’s support can be as damaging among independent voters as it is helpful among the GOP base.
In the MinnPost/Embold Research statewide poll conducted earlier this month, Trump’s favorability ratings are among the lowest of the politicians measured. Of those polled, 57% said they felt very or somewhat unfavorable about him while 35% reported feeling very or somewhat favorable. The unfavorable total has risen since it was asked last August – from 53% to 57%.
Among independent voters, just 20% said they felt very or somewhat favorable toward the former president, with 64% reporting very or somewhat unfavorable feelings toward him.
Especially in the secretary of state’s race, Trump’s endorsement and the message he sent to his followers on Truth Social repeated a false claim by Trump that Crockett has been trying to downplay: that the 2020 election was stolen.
Crockett has said in the past that the election was rigged and continues to raise doubts about how it was conducted in Minnesota and the nation. More recently, though, she has said the 2020 election is not an issue and that she can be counted on to oversee elections in a nonpartisan way. Her DFL opponent, incumbent Steve Simon, repeatedly says her sowing of doubts in the count is disqualifying.
So while Crockett would prefer to not go there, Trump went there and beyond.
Calling Crockett “a strong and wonderful woman,” Trump said “fraud is rampant” in Minnesota. He added that it is a state “where nothing is done about it, or more important, to FIX IT. Kim will get to the bottom of it and so much else.”
Joe Biden won Minnesota by 233,012 votes, more than 7 percentage points over Trump, and there were no successful legal challenges of the Minnesota vote.
Trump’s endorsement of Jensen said he would bring the state “back from the brink,” citing his positions on crime and education.
“… there won’t be any more fiery takeovers of police precincts. Minnesota will be great again,” Trump wrote before offering his “complete and total endorsement.”
Jensen didn’t cite the Trump endorsement specifically, instead grouping it with others including the Forum Communications newspapers, police officers and the Hmong American Leadership Council.
Jensen has trailed Gov. Tim Walz in media polls, but the gap has closed since the summer. The MinnPost/Embold Research poll reported Walz with a five-point lead. Simon led Crockett by seven percentage points in the same poll.
The closeness of the governor’s race has helped Jensen with national organizations, with the Republican Governor’s Association announcing a large advertising buy on his behalf this week. A poll by GOP pollster Trafalgar Group for the conservative website Alpha News reported Jensen with a 0.5 percentage point lead, though the poll’s margin of error is +/- 2.9 percentage points.
“As this campaign takes the lead in the polls, I expect many individuals and organizations to ride the momentum and endorse our campaign,” Jensen said.
State DFLers, however, quickly tried to take advantage of the endorsement by an unpopular former president who has spent nearly two years saying his defeat was fraudulent. That despite no court victories in dozens of challenges and rejection of his claims by his own Justice Department. The Jan. 6 special investigation of the U.S. House has presented evidence of his actions to trigger the violent takeover of the Capitol that delayed, but did not stop, the certification of the Electoral College victory for Biden.
“It is more important than ever that we do not allow one of Donald Trump’s lackeys into office to continue attacking the legitimacy of our elections and spreading conspiracy theories that incite political violence,” said state DFL Chair Ken Martin of the Crockett endorsement.
Simon’s campaign sent out a fundraising appeal based on the endorsement within hours of it being posted by Trump.
Early Wednesday, Martin responded to the Jensen endorsement: “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.”