Say ... what's Biden doing in Minnesota today?

Say ... what's Biden doing in Minnesota today?

Minnesota? Four days before an election? In perhaps the strongest sign that this state has become a battleground, both presidential candidates will make appearances today — despite the state’s record streak as a Democratic stronghold going back to 1976:

President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden will hold competing Minnesota rallies Friday as the race for the White House intensifies in what has become a potential battleground state in Tuesday’s election.

Biden’s campaign announced Thursday that he would hold a drive-in car rally in St. Paul at 3:45 p.m., just ahead of a previously scheduled Trump rally at 5 p.m. in the Rochester area.

The Biden event seemed designed to limit crowding and close personal contact out of concern for the pandemic. The details of Trump’s Rochester-area rally shifted Thursday after state officials asked the Trump campaign and Republican National Committee to produce a COVID-19 preparedness plan.

Trump and Mike Pence have been in and out of Minnesota several times over the last few months. For Biden, this looks like a late addition to his focus:

The Friday night rally will be Trump’s fourth campaign visit to the state this year, following previous rallies in Mankato, Bemidji and Duluth.

The Twin Cities stop will be Biden’s second visit to the state since winning the Democratic nomination in August. The former vice president toured a labor union training center outside Duluth and greeted voters in the city’s Canal Park district on the first day of early voting in mid-September.

Why has Minnesota suddenly reappeared on Biden’s radar after almost two full months of taking the state for granted? We know why Trump‘s in Minnesota four days before the election. Trump and his team insist that the state is in play, despite most polls showing Joe Biden ahead past the margin of error. Trump wants to expand the 2016 Electoral College map, and thinks he can stay on offense rather than focus his time on defending the states he won four years ago. Plus, Trump feels free to travel constantly.

But Biden has only made specific and limited personal appearances, and only where necessary — Florida, Pennsylvania, plus an attempt to expand the map in Arizona and Georgia. Why Minnesota? Apparently, Trump’s not the only one who thinks the state is in play.

The Star Tribune notices it, too:

The Trump campaign started pushing resources into Minnesota early in the presidential cycle, building out a campaign infrastructure the likes of which Minnesota Republicans said they have not seen here for years, if ever. The Biden campaign was slower to invest in Minnesota as he worked to lock up the Democratic nomination, but recent months have seen his campaign making up lost ground.

The Biden campaign isn’t doing much “investment” except in call centers and advertising. They have flooded the zone with the latter, but that’s been the case since the general election started. Call centers won’t do much good without a ground game to inform it, which the Biden campaign has completely eschewed. They’re playing catch-up now, and that also indicates that they think Biden’s position in Minnesota is in danger.

By the way, this Eighth Circuit decision yesterday probably doesn’t make them feel any more secure:

A federal court sided Thursday with a GOP challenge to Minnesota’s extended deadline for receiving absentee ballots after Election Day, imperiling a state rule that would count mail-in ballots received up to a week after Tuesday’s election.

In a 2-1 decision, a panel of Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judges ordered that all mail-in ballots received after 8 p.m. on Election Day be set aside, setting the stage for a potential legal battle after the election. But the order stopped short of a final determination on the validity of the post-Election Day ballots.

The ruling came in a case brought by Minnesota GOP presidential electors challenging a state rule allowing election officials to count ballots received until Nov. 10, as long as they are postmarked by Nov. 3. It is one of several Republican challenges to extended deadlines that were adopted in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and North Carolina in response to concerns about the pandemic and potential mail delays.

The Eighth Circuit opinion concluded that state and federal law superseded the state court-approved extension.

“There is no pandemic exception to the Constitution,” the panel wrote.

The state legislature could have passed an extension months ago if it saw a need for it. This “state rule” is a bureaucratic order put in place by the secretary of state in a settlement of a nuisance lawsuit in July, not promulgated or approved by the state legislature.  The state has had weeks of early and mail-in voting; there is no need to extend this deadline. Even those with mail-in ballots can walk them into polling stations as late as Election Day. It’s absurd to add a week to a deadline that has been in place and well-known for months, pandemic or no.

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