Trump Factor Affects Both Party Conventions

ROCHESTER, Minn. — Thank you, Donald Trump.

Republicans say it out loud. Democrats not so much.

But both major parties benefited from the Republican president during their weekend Minnesota state conventions.

“He definitely has me energized and I think he has the entire Republican Party here energized,” Boni Bieniek of Two Harbors said at the GOP convention in Duluth. “I definitely think that energy will carry into this year’s election because he not only has Republicans energized but I think that he even has some independents and Democrats excited because he convinced them to vote for him in 2016 and I think that we can capture those votes.”

Democrats agree he energized them, but not because they support Trump.

Nate Erickson of Kandiyohi said it was “100 percent Trump” that got him involved in the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, which met in Rochester.

“I got involved because I  was upset,” the 29-year-old Erickson said.

After becoming angry, he said that he realized he had no right to complain about the situation unless he got involved.

“I never was involved in politics at all,” Erickson added.

Erickson was not alone. “A few of my friends and I decided to get involved” and he plans to stay involved, he said.

DFL Chairman Ken Martin said that half of the state convention delegates never have been at a state convention before, when generally 75 percent to 80 percent are returning delegates.

Trump came close to winning Minnesota in 2016, a rarity for a Republican in the state. That encouraged Republicans, who now hope that they can use the energy to have both legislative chambers and the governor’s office in their hands. Democrats, meanwhile, are trying to harness an anti-Trump feeling to bring new people into their ranks and to win on Nov. 6.

Democratic veteran delegate Nancy Larson, involved in party politics since the 1970s, was happy to see new people at Rochester’s Mayo Civic Center.

Often when younger people get involved in politics, they attend a few party events “and you never see them again,” Larson said. It feels different this year, she added. “Unlike in the past, they are here for good.”

“I think it is Trump,” said Larson, who has run for statewide office and for the Legislature, as well as serving on the National Democratic Committee.”I think he energized the people who have sat back and done nothing.”

Larson and others at the conventions could not predict what will happen to the newly engaged people in future election.

“There still is so much unknown,” Larson said. “We have never had someone who is so erratic.”

Activists in both major parties say Trump could continue to have an impact.

“I’m hearing a lot of positive energy for President Trump and the positive things he has done for our country as far as the tax reform, peace through strength from an international diplomacy perspective,” GOP Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan said. “It really does matter and people are starting to see that on all levels and we are very confident about our opportunities this election cycle and we are also confident that we’ll come back in 2020 and for the first time since 1972 deliver our 10 electoral votes to the president.”

But Trump’s unpredictability affects how much Republicans want to connect with him.

“I’m a conservative and if President Trump sticks with conservative principles, then I’ll align myself with President Trump,” said state Rep. Jim Newberger, the Republican candidate challenging Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar. “But I’m going to do what’s best for Minnesota and what the people are telling me on the campaign trail is that they want some conservative solutions and I’m more than happy to do the work they are asking me to do.”

Newberger added: “President Trump’s energy inspires me. I think we’re both very high energy people and I look forward to work with him.”

David Moody of Willmar, a DFL delegate, said he is the only returning delegate from his convention delegation, with most of the rest getting involved because of Trump.

“He got everybody fired up,” Moody said.

However, he said, “I think it is bigger than Trump.”

Gridlock on federal and state levels also are factors in getting people involved, he said.

“The politics of division will be seen to be not only harmful, but futile,” Moody said. “You don’t build a nation on divided government.”

DFL activist Carly Melin, a former state lawmaker, said the Iron Range may have given Trump a 16-point win, but voters there still backed a heavily Democratic slate of candidates.

This year’s election, without the president on the ballot, probably will remain solidly Democratic, she said.

Also, the Range delegation to the convention does not have more newcomers than usual, she said.

Democrat Justin Vold, who lives near Litchfield, used Trump as an example about why he is qualified to run for the state House against Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City.

“If anyone with a pulse and breath can get elected, I am overqualified,” 35-year-old Vold said.