Former U.S. Rep. Jason Lewis embraced President Donald Trump’s policies as he announced plans to challenge Democratic Sen. Tina Smith in the 2020 election.
“Let the battle begin,” the Republican said at the GOP’s State Fair booth Thursday.
He called the Senate “the last firewall for freedom” in the face of liberals like U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., and the other three members of the progressive “Squad” of congressional Democrats.
Pressed by journalists about his support for Trump, Lewis suggested that Smith should be asked, “Here’s what the Squad said today. What do you think about that?”
Lewis said he won’t distance himself from Trump’s positions on the economy, immigrants and other issues. “I have a hard time disagreeing with much of it,” he said.
As has been pointed out ad nauseam in this space, a Minnesota Republican has not won a statewide race since 2006. I have to admit I'm a tad skeptical that an incumbent U.S. House member who lost in a swing district in 2018 is the one to turn the tide. However, the Trump re-election campaign (along with the Republican National Committee) has put a heavy emphasis on Minnesota in the 2020 election after falling short by a mere 1.5% in 2016.
The national party has been pouring resources into the state. The Republican National Committee has nearly a dozen full-time staffers in Minnesota. By comparison, the party had just one full-time staffer in the state in 2016, and that aide was diverted to another battleground before Election Day.
Representatives from the Trump campaign recently traveled to Minnesota to convene a meeting with Lewis and Minnesota GOP officials, who said they need as much help as possible.
“We haven’t seen this level of impact and involvement or focus on our state in perhaps decades, maybe even longer than that,” said Minnesota GOP Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan.
Minnesota Democratic Party Chairman Ken Martin said his party needs to take the threat seriously.
“While we’re engaged in an internecine battle figuring out who our nominee is going to be, they’re already out there talking to general election voters and organizing,” Martin said.
“Could Trump win Minnesota?” Martin asked. “Absolutely.”
Interesting admission from Martin, though I suspect it's guarding against overconfidence more than anything.
While I appreciate that the national GOP is pouring so much into Minnesota, this strategy of appealing to outstate and rural voters at the expense of outer ring suburban areas didn't exactly serve the MNGOP well in 2018 (hello, AG Keith Ellison). Then again, Trump wasn't on the ballot last November, so I have a feeling that his most staunch supporters weren't as motivated as Dems to turn out 9+ months ago.
Regardless of what happens in the final outcome of Minnesota's Senate race, the debates between the two candidates will be epic. With Lewis's depth of knowledge in Constitutional government, you can bet he'll run circles around the feeble Smith. And when it becomes very apparent that she's in over her head in such a matchup, the ad hominem attacks citing Lewis as a "bully" and "misogynist" will hit a fever pitch.