A bright pink bus emblazoned with the words “Women For Trump” rolled into Fergus Falls Monday for a visit to the Republican Party of Otter Tail County field office in downtown. A group of supporters lined the road with signs and flags to welcome the bus, singing “America the Beautiful” and chanting, “four more years.”
Candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives for Minnesota’s Seventh Congressional District Michelle Fischbach, chair for the Republican Party of Minnesota, Jennifer Carnahan, Gun Owners for Trump advisory board member Mia Rhode, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem have been taking the bus on a tour of Minnesota to speak to voters about the election and some key issues. The bus made stops in Moorhead, Brainerd, Duluth, Virginia and was continuing on to Marshall.
In Fergus Falls, the group was greeted by current Minnesota House Representative for District 8A Bud Nornes and candidate for the same seat Jordan Rasmusson, local neighborhood team leader with the Trump campaign Ben Anderson and Otter Tail Power Company representatives Steve Schoeneck, Kevin Kouba and Jason Grenier, as well as more than three dozen residents.
Carnahan, Rhode, Fischbach, Rutledge and Noem each took turns addressing the crowd at the outdoor event, speaking on topics like the Supreme Court, the response to COVID-19, Trump’s successes in office, the failures of the Democratic Party and the importance of this election. “This election is between good and evil,” said Rutledge. “This election is not just between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. This election is a difference between communism and socialism and capitalism and the American way of life.”
The crowd was most excited to see Noem, who spent her five minutes drawing a stark contrast between her response to COVID-19 and Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz’s. “You all are living under some bad leadership coming out of your governor’s office,” she said. Noem said she listened to the experts but, unlike Walz, “In South Dakota, for instance, we never once closed a single business because I didn’t even define what an essential business was. Governors do not have the authority to tell you that your business isn’t essential. We also never issued a shelter in place, we never mandated any masks.”
Most governors followed guidance from “The President’s Coronavirus Guidelines for America” which said to follow the Department of Homeland Security’s definition of critical infrastructure industries (health care services, pharmaceutical, food supply, etc.). Noem pointed to ending the year with a budget surplus for the state and revenue from sales tax at 110% above normal as proof of her success and said South Dakota had, “one of the lowest death rates in the nation.” South Dakota ranks 19th for lowest death rate in the U.S. but is also in the bottom 10 states for testing and has the sixth highest case rate per capita, according to the John Hopkins University of Medicine.
Noem also encouraged the crowd to speak to other voters and keep emotions in check. “Let’s keep the emotion out of it, use facts, have conversations that attract people to us because that’s really how we’re going to get this job done and make sure we get the president back in the White House,” she said, adding that at the gas pump or waiting in line at the grocery store might be good places to start those conversations with people.
Although Noem represents South Dakota, she joined the Women for Trump tour through Minnesota because she thinks her governorship can show Minnesotans what they can have. “I think a lot of folks in Minnesota are familiar with South Dakota, they watch the different decisions that governors have made and have watched what their governor has done, which is very different from what’s going on in South Dakota,” she said. “Really, it reflects back on our parties and on our candidates that are running for president. I think it’s an opportunity to show the contrast of visions for how people conduct their lives and personal responsibility.”
Republicans are making a big push in Minnesota this year and this was the second time a Trump surrogate came to visit Fergus Falls, following John Pence’s — Vice President Mike Pence’s nephew — visit in late September. “We see what’s happening with the country and with the state, and I think that the Republicans want to make sure that we move the state and country forward,” Fischbach said.
For many Minnesota Republicans, a red Minnesota seems like a possibility. “I think that here it’s a competitive race. The president is doing very well, Republicans have not won this state for a president in many, many years and the president’s message is really resonating with folks,” Noem said.
Beyond the campaign’s organized push, Anderson, one of the most active Republican volunteers in the state, says Republican voters are a lot more involved this year. “I think they see Minnesota as a great opportunity just because of how close they were and the ground support that’s been coming up so much, you just travel across the county — in my 20 years of Republican politics, I’ve never seen anything like that where people are making homemade signs,” he said. “I think the interest and the support for the president, just because of the focus he’s had and the goals he’s had, his successes with his policies, are things that resonate with just average people.”