Minnesota politicos react to Trump win in Iowa caucus

Minnesota's congressional Republicans continued their calls for unity around Trump as Minnesotans can begin early voting for the GOP presidential primary on Friday.

Former President Donald Trump’s decisive win in the Iowa Republican caucus on Monday was met with an anticipated mix of cheerleading and criticism by neighboring Minnesota politicos. (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

Former President Donald Trump’s decisive win in the Iowa Republican caucus on Monday was met with an anticipated mix of cheerleading and criticism by neighboring Minnesota politicos throughout the evening. Some even made the trip down to Iowa to get a word in edgewise.

One of those, Democrat U.S. Sen. Tina Smith of Minnesota, spent a portion of her Monday evening live on the set with CBS News in its coverage of the Iowa Republican caucus in Des Moines.

Smith stumped for President Joe Biden on the CBS national broadcast right before some 100,000-plus Republican voters shuffled off to their party’s caucuses across Iowa.

The former Planned Parenthood executive who’s represented Minnesota in the U.S. Senate since 2018 said she believes it doesn’t matter who Biden faces in the general election, even if it looks clear Trump will maintain his frontrunner status as the next stages of the GOP primary race unfold in the coming weeks.

“The reality is that all of these (Republican) candidates are basically the same as far as we’re concerned,” Smith said during an interview with CBS political correspondent Major Garrett. “So if you look at the core issues that differentiate between these Republican candidates, President Biden particularly I think about for abortion rights, for example, they are all pretty much the same.”

When asked whether President Trump has a chance to win the state, Smith didn’t hesitate.

“We are hellbent to make sure President Biden wins Minnesota,” Smith told Garrett. “Minnesota is like a lot of states though. It is tough. It’s going to be competitive. And the president will need to compete in Minnesota to make sure we turn out our voters and we make the case to them. That’s the story actually, of this whole election; nothing can be taken for granted and the battles will be fierce.”

In 2016, Trump lost to Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in Minnesota by just a 1.5 percent margin.

Smith was asked specifically about how Biden might be able to overcome nationwide polls where he either trails or is tied with Trump, Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis.

“You have this individual (Biden) who has kind of limitless reserves of energy, who goes all over the place,” Smith said about Biden. “I think about the incredible effort he went to get to Ukraine during the initial stages of the war. And I think about the efforts he goes to every single day in the United States, to get where people are and talk to them. So it’s certainly not about energy; and its certainly not about experience.”

Trump, DeSantis, Haley surrogates based in Minnesota react

While Smith did her best to puff up Biden in Iowa, her Minnesota Republican congressional counterparts continued to stump for Trump as results from Iowa’s GOP caucus came rolling in and several media outlets began declaring the night in favor of the former president.

“In 2016, Democrats and the media made dire predictions about Donald Trump,” Rep. Michelle Fischbach, R-Minn., said in a statement on social media. “Instead, we had a secure southern border, energy independence, an expanding economy that benefitted ALL communities, and respect on the world stage. The feedback I receive from across #MN07 is we could use four more years of all that.”

Rep. Tom Emmer, the third-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives, said the Iowa results show that voters are ready to unite around Trump as he captured just a notch above 50 percent among three other candidates still running and on the ballot.

“President Trump’s decisive win in Iowa tonight confirms what we already knew,” Emmer said in a statement on Monday evening. “It’s a race for second place (between Haley and DeSantis). It’s time to unite so we can focus on ending Joe Biden’s FAILED administration in November!”

Former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley speaking with supporters at a “Countdown to Caucus” campaign rally at the Country Lane Lodge in Adel, Iowa. (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

Meanwhile, a handful of surrogates in Minnesota for Haley and DeSantis provided a “next day” take on where their favored candidates go from here.

“I will not support Nikki Haley under any circumstance if she refuses to debate,” said Dustin Grage, a Minnesota-based Republican political consultant and Ron DeSantis supporter, about the reports Tuesday that Haley won’t get on a debate stage with Ron DeSantis in New Hampshire later this month unless Trump is also there.

After his second-place finish in Iowa, DeSantis said he will continue his campaign on to the Jan. 23 and Feb. 24 primaries in New Hampshire and South Carolina. Minnesota’s primary is on March 5, along with 14 other states. Early voting for the Republican presidential primary in Minnesota begins this Friday.

Minnesota-based Haley campaign surrogate Preya Samsundar spun the former South Carolina governor’s third-place Iowa finish as a positive heading into the New Hampshire primary, where she said “the real race begins.”

“We expected (Trump) to win the state of Iowa,” Samsundar said during a Tuesday morning radio interview on KTLK. “It’s a state that’s built for Donald Trump. Frankly, he kind of built it himself after winning in 2016 and really changed the map here.”

Samsundar told KTLK morning show radio host Jon Justice that many among Haley’s supporters in Iowa believe she has momentum heading into New Hampshire, based on her favorable polling in the “First in the Nation Primary” state and Trump’s margin of victory over the field in Iowa, which she said was less than what polls had predicted.

“As we kind of got closer to the caucus day (Trump’s) team on the ground was really trying to downplay the expectations on the level of support he would actually receive,” Samsundar said. “Despite the fact he hovered right around that 50 percent point, that margin is nowhere near where it should have been for an incumbent president, much less what he had been touting over the last year.”


Hank Long

Hank Long is a journalism and communications professional whose writing career includes coverage of the Minnesota legislature, city and county governments and the commercial real estate industry. Hank received his undergraduate degree at the University of Minnesota, where he studied journalism, and his law degree at the University of St. Thomas. The Minnesota native lives in the Twin Cities with his wife and four children. His dream is to be around when the Vikings win the Super Bowl.