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Can Trump turn his fans in Minnesota into actual Republican voters?

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Donald Trump makes his way through the crowd after addressing a Tea Party rally against the Iran nuclear deal at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.

Donald Trump officially won the Minnesota Republican Party’s very unofficial corn poll of presidential candidates at the State Fair, where visitors filled growlers with corn to indicate their preference.  

And Trump won by a sizable margin – getting 25.5 percent of the votes in the field of seven. (Check out the full results here.)

All of which raises the question: Can Trump build a campaign organization in Minnesota to turn those kernels into actual people who will go to the state’s precinct caucuses on March 1? After all, as The Upshot column in the New York Times noted“… amassing the delegates and voters to win the nomination is a lot harder than withstanding attacks on controversial comments five or six months before an election.”

To find out, I asked some party activists how they viewed Trump’s appeal and his capacity to turn personal popularity into political reality.  

Bob Maginnis, president of the Republican Seniors of Minnesota, worked the GOP’s State Fair both and witnessed the support from fairgoers. “I’m flabbergasted at what he’s been doing, but he sure seems to be getting a lot of people on his side,” Maginnis said. “When he first started, I thought, what a clown. But he’s beginning to make an awful lot of sense.” 

Maginnis said he has seen no evidence of a Trump organization in the state and, uncommitted to any candidate himself, he looks at Trump as a long shot for a caucus win. 

For a candidate like Trump, organization isn’t as critical, according to Jack Rogers, president of the Tea Party Alliance. He believes Trump will maintain the mainstream and social media presence that will propel his supporters to the caucuses, where the winners of a straw poll will bind delegates to the national convention.

“He’s got money and he has his own media outlet,” he said. “He will have an organization, and he will be there.”   

As for Trump’s positions on taxes, abortion, and health care — all of which are antithetical to the Tea Party — Rogers thinks it’s simply a matter of education. Not of voters, though: of Trump. “He is not well informed yet, but he will be informed,” he said. “I think he will choose a vice presidential candidate that will shore up those issues.”   

Trump still hasn’t crashed and burned in the manner that many pundits predicted a few months ago, notes former 2nd Congressional District Chair Bill Jungbauer, but he thinks he will, eventually. 

Jungbauer is a Libertarian. Trump, he says emphatically, is not. “He [Trump] does what he needs to do for him,” Jungbauer said. “I believe he’s another Jesse Ventura, only with thicker skin.”

Like Maginnis, Jungbauer said he has seen no grass-roots efforts on behalf of Trump, and says, in fact, the strongest support at the caucus level is for Libertarian favorite Sen. Rand Paul, whose father, Ron Paul, controlled Minnesota’s delegation to the national convention in 2012.

Still, “it’s possible Trump could pull something off,” Jungbauer said.

With the earliest primaries and the March caucus still months off, Maginnis said it’s way too early to predict a Trump turnout in Minnesota. 

I think it might depend upon on what happens in Iowa, in New Hampshire, what happens in those earlier states,” he said. “That might be a momentum thing that keeps him going. Or he might say something so stupid that people are going to hate him.”

Comments (20)

  1. Submitted by Joel Stegner on 09/10/2015 - 11:12 am.

    Trump popular?

    Trump is the first choice of 25% of Republicans. Republicans are somewhere between 30-50% of the adult population – higher if you include all the “leaners,” which means his support is down to 10-15%. If you asked a different question, which candidate would Republicans least like to have as their nominee, among true party faithful, I suspect that number is well about 50% in a field of candidates with a lot of very, very weak contenders.

    The media seems to be making the argument that “people” don’t like Hillary, but do like Trump. Trump – the Don Rickles of candidates – has very high unfavorables, even before we really know what his policy positions are. Although I think the Republican Party will ruin the country if it wins the Presidency in 2016, it is hard to imagine any good coming out of a Trump presidency – just a big heap of trouble from a guy whose ego involves being “top dog.”

  2. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 09/10/2015 - 11:43 am.

    Trump will crumble

    when he has to transition from bombast to saying how he is going to accomplish what he is for, whatever that is. Other than a many billion dollar fence on the southern border no one knows what he is actually for. As with every Republican we know what they are against because that is as far as they ever take it. The devil is in the details. The GOP circus continues.

  3. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 09/10/2015 - 12:26 pm.

    …“I’m flabbergasted at what he’s been doing, but he sure seems to be getting a lot of people on his side,” Maginnis said. “When he first started, I thought, what a clown. But he’s beginning to make an awful lot of sense.”…

    I seem to remember a child’s tale about the emperor’s new clothes. Maginnis ( he’s beginning to make an awful lot of sense !?!) is playing his part in the parade.

  4. Submitted by Leon Webster on 09/10/2015 - 01:24 pm.

    when Trump begin to make sense?

    “When he first started, I thought, what a clown. But he’s beginning to make an awful lot of sense” I would be curious as to when Mr. Maginnis thought Trump began to make sense. I am not a Republican, but I haven’t heard him say anything that sounds remotely like “Sense”.

  5. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 09/10/2015 - 01:46 pm.

    Will They Vote Republican?

    Maybe, maybe not. It’s unlikely that the Trump fans will defect to the Democrats. If their boy does not get the nomination, it’s more likely they will just stay home on Election Day.

    The more immediate concern is, will they go to the caucuses and be selected as delegates? Whatever the popular opinion may look like, the important opinions are going to be those of the people who show up for the caucuses. Are the Trump supporters really interested in working for a candidate, or are they just attracted by his attitude, or the increasingly populist stands that do not track Republican orthodoxy?

    Trump has no organization in Minnesota, and his support seems to be shallow. On the other hand, if none of the other candidates catch fire and most of the delegates are uncommitted, the momentum could go his way.

    “’He is not well informed yet, but he will be informed,’ he said. ‘I think he will choose a vice presidential candidate that will shore up those issues.'” That statement is sad in its cluelessness. What would make anyone think Trump is open to being contradicted about anything?

  6. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 09/10/2015 - 02:01 pm.

    the only way Trump could win..

    …is if voting is done by texting yes to 1-800-IAMTRUMP. Anyone who would vote for him is too stupid to find a regular polling place.

    • Submitted by Tim Olson on 09/10/2015 - 10:09 pm.

      Two Words

      Jesse Ventura.

      • Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 09/11/2015 - 06:54 am.

        Three Words

        Governor versus President.

        I voted for Jessie for governor after that debate but voting for governor is way different than voting for president, who has the power to start wars and who represents us to other countries. When Jessie started running as a politician he dropped the WWE shtick. Trump is running with his shtick firmly in place.

  7. Submitted by Tom Clark on 09/10/2015 - 02:56 pm.

    Think of it not as a political campaign

    but as a reality TV show. Trump is popular because his act is entertaining. Whether that translates into genuine support in the voting booth is another matter.

  8. Submitted by Bill Willy on 09/10/2015 - 05:31 pm.

    Would’ve been easy peasy

    1988: “While the real estate tycoon maintained he didn’t envision running in 1988, Trump did make a trip to New Hampshire in October 1987 where he ripped into Japan and Kuwait and said the Ayatollah Khomeini made Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev ‘look like a baby.’ ”

    2000: “In the fall of 1999, Trump quit the Republican Party — “I really believe the Republicans are just too crazy right,” he said at the time — to join New York’s Independence party, the state’s version of the Reform Party…

    ” ‘It’s a very great possibility that I will run,’ he said, regarding the Reform Party’s 2000 presidential nomination. He ultimately opted against a campaign a few months later after saying he’d become convinced the Reform nominee couldn’t win. Had he run, he would’ve faced off against Pat Buchanan for the nomination. Suffice it to say, things could’ve gotten ugly.

    ” ‘He’s a Hitler lover, I guess he’s an anti-Semite,’ he said of Buchanan on Meet the Press. ‘He doesn’t like the blacks, he doesn’t like the gays.’ ”

    2012: “The hints at a run for high office just kept on coming in the years prior to the 2012 campaign. There were reports that he was considering presidential runs in 2004 (the year he opted instead to launch the television series, The Apprentice) and 2008.

    “In 2012 Trump had gained increased notoriety for questioning President Obama’s citizenship and had indicated he was serious about seeking the GOP nomination to challenge Obama’s re-election bid.

    ” ‘America is missing quality leadership,’ he said at the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2011. ‘I am well acquainted with winning.’ He disputed notions that his favorable standing in polls was simply a product of name recognition and not his proposals, telling USA TODAY: ‘Something resonates with people; people know I’m a serious person.’

    “In the end (again), it was not to be. In May 2011, he said in a statement: ‘I have spent the past several months unofficially campaigning and recognize that running for public office cannot be done half-heartedly. Ultimately, however, business is my greatest passion and I am not ready to leave the private sector.’

    “Looking back on the 2012 campaign-that-wasn’t in an interview with The Des Moines Register in January, The Donald had some regrets.

    “ ‘I would’ve won the race against Obama. He would’ve been easy,’ he said.”

  9. Submitted by jason myron on 09/11/2015 - 06:27 am.

    Trump appeals

    to the boorish nature of today’s conservative who has spent the last ten years watching Fox hosts trash every ethnic and social group that they feel are responsible for their imagined woes. Essentially, Archie Bunker without the laugh track or life’s lesson at the end.

  10. Submitted by Mike Sarenpa on 09/11/2015 - 07:31 am.

    Makes sense to me

    Bob Maginnis, president of the Republican Seniors of Minnesota: “When he first started, I thought, what a clown. But he’s beginning to make an awful lot of sense.”

    Now that’s a quote. Almost as good as the woman who said Trump would make America great again because it says so on his hat.

  11. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 09/11/2015 - 07:32 am.

    Trump and Berlusconi

    Via Counterpunch
    All quotes
    For a long time Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi appeared as an impenetrable phenomenon to foreign observers. He was routinely dismissed as an exotic anomaly tied to the idiosyncrasies of Italian political culture.

    Today, he might not seem so unfamiliar. There are striking analogies between Italy’s former prime minister and the current front-runner in the Republican presidential nominee race — and not just that both are flamboyant billionaires and former entertainers running for office on anti-establishment platforms.

    Although Berlusconi’s political fortunes now appear to be on the wane, looking back at reasons for his erstwhile success might shed light on the current fascination with Donald Trump’s US presidential bid.

    They share a flaunted machismo and political incorrectness. This is part of a well-calculated electoral strategy. What Berlusconi had already understood before Trump is that saying outrageous things gets you free media coverage and forces others to engage with what you are saying. So you get to set the terms of the political debate, while shifting its center of gravity in your favor. At the same time, Berlusconi and Trump’s political incorrectness targets a specific electoral group — predominantly blue-collar white males who feel threatened by globalization, multiculturalism and women’s rights. There is an element of revanchism in their discourse, which allows them to attract conservative votes while assuming an air of radicalism.

    Berlusconi’s popularity in Italy was also due to his capacity to transform class antagonisms into cultural issues, capturing large swathes of the working-class vote. The fact that he was a billionaire never seemed to distance him from ordinary people. On the contrary, it tapped into their aspirations. Even more importantly, the fact that he had brought commercial television to Italy implied an association with popular culture that set him in opposition to the country’s traditionally left-leaning cultural elites. In the same way, Trump’s anti-establishment rhetoric appeals to working-class voters who resent what they perceive as the patronizing attitude of ‘liberal elites’. This suggests the old class antagonism is now translated into a new cultural division which plays out in terms of political style rather than income.

    Finally, Berlusconi’s electoral success depended on his alliance with the far-right League of the North, a xenophobic party whose message pivoted almost entirely around the association between immigration and crime. The foundation of this alliance was the convergence of interests between Berlusconi’s predominantly national business empire and the economic protectionism implied in the League of the North’s anti-immigrant stance. In the US, this alliance between business interests and anti-immigration rhetoric had not been as prominent, largely because big business saw itself as wedded to globalization. Trump, on the other hand, seems to have understood that it may be in the interest of small to medium business owners to take a stand against immigration, because it ensures that a large portion of incoming labor is illegal and therefore in a weaker bargaining position. De-linking immigration from economics and re-framing it as a question of crime and security is the best way of pulling this off.

    To be sure, there are also some important differences between Trump and Berlusconi. These too may help to shed light on some aspects of the ongoing Republican primary. When Berlusconi sought to present himself as a novelty in Italian politics, there was an element of truth to his rhetoric. Both his political style and his capacity to attract business and working class votes were fundamentally disruptive of the party system that had dominated Italian politics since the end of the Second World War. Trump, on the other hand, must be situated in the context of a longer trajectory in the way in which the Republican Party has run its electoral campaigns over the past decade and a half. From George W. Bush’s early attempts to present himself as an ‘ordinary American’ to Sarah Palin’s nomination as vice-presidential candidate and the subsequent attempt by the party’s leadership to co-opt the Tea-Party movement, the Republican Party has long been toying with anti-establishment populism as an electoral weapon.

    Whether they will be able to rein in the forces they have conjured up remains to be seen — but don’t forget that Berlusconi was initially dismissed as wholly unelectable. His political momentum lasted more than 20 years.

    This article appears in the excellent Le Monde Diplomatique, whose English language edition can be found at This full text appears by agreement with Le Monde Diplomatique. CounterPunch features two or three articles from LMD every month.

  12. Submitted by Carolyn Jones on 09/11/2015 - 07:34 am.

    First let me say, there is a lot I like about Trump and his message. I like that he says it like it is and is not worried about offending people or being politically incorrect. I like that he is sick of losing and doesn’t apologize for being successful. Much of what he says gives power to the people and takes it away from the political elite in Washington. People want to get things done. The Republicans took over the Congress and said they could get things done and they haven’t done a thing because they are too afraid they will offend people and lose power. Only Trump has figured it out.
    That said, Trump doesn’t really have any grounding in the principles of freedom and our Constitution, he is thinned skinned and his solution to everything is to sue everybody. He is all about himself. The media love him because he drives ratings and makes them money. But in the end, if Trump were to be President, I think his brash ways and bullying tactics that work well in the private sector will make it hard for him to be successful.
    It will be a very interesting year.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 09/11/2015 - 09:18 am.

      “[N]ot worried about offending people . . .”

      Why is that a good thing?

    • Submitted by Henk Tobias on 09/11/2015 - 11:52 am.

      [Republicans]…are too afraid they will offend people…

      That’s one of the funniest comments I’ve ever seen, it ranks right up there with “Trump tells is like it is”…this Republican primary is comedy gold.

  13. Submitted by Curt Carlson on 09/11/2015 - 09:31 am.

    Straw votes

    A straw vote only shows which way the hot air blows. – O. Henry

  14. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/11/2015 - 11:28 am.

    The real question…

    Is whether or not republican voters can pull back from magical thinking, intolerance, and ignorance long enough to vote for a viable candidate? Looks to me like they’re doubling down on magic and bigotry.

  15. Submitted by Henk Tobias on 09/11/2015 - 11:56 am.

    Billionaire Bully Buffoon..

    ..and the perfect man to represent what the Republican party has become.

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