the Democratic (DFL) primary in the 5th congressional
district (CD-5) of Minnesota is that incumbent Ilhan
Omar won her nomination for a second term. To be fair,
she won by a clear margin although she faced a serious
and outstanding challenger, Antone Melton-Meaux, a
black attorney and minister, who raised a huge campaign
war chest, and was backed by several well-known DFL
figures and a well-funded independent PAC. The
challenger also had a serious campaign organization,
many devoted volunteers, plenty of paid and free media,
and the endorsement of the district’s largest daily
The final result was that, although Melton-Meaux made a
respectable showing, he lost by double digits.
In my two pre-primary posts on the race, I pointed out that
Melton-Meaux was always the underdog in the contest, and
that incumbents rarely lost their own party’s primary. I also
pointed out that two of Omar’s “Squad” allies also had
“serious”primary challengers this year, but had easily won
(Despite his loss, if Melton-Meaux is truly serious about
politics, he will immediately make plans to run again in
two years. The success rate for repeat challengers is much
higher than for first-timers.)
But like so much in the political chess game, the obvious
answer is often not the most significant answer.
Someone else was the biggest winner of the CD-5 primary.
That someone is Donald Trump (and the Minnesota
Let me explain.
As even mainstream polls are indicating, the 2020
presidential race is tightening especially in key
midwestern states with their vital electoral college
votes. A very recent major mainstream poll had
Biden leading Trump by only 3 points in Minnesota
(within the margin of error --- so a virtual tie).
Minnesota has been considered a blue state, but in
reality, as 2016 proved, it’s purple-blue --- and in 2020,
perhaps, purple-red. For example, the GOP could
easily pick up one, and possibly, two congressional seats
in 2020. (The DFL is likely to retain its U.S. senate seat.)
While anti-Trump media correctly point out that much
of the incentive for Democrats to go to the polls is to
defeat the president, they usually ignore the incentive
provided to Republicans by politicians such as Ilhan
Omar who conservatives consider far too radical.
In Minnesota, outside the major urban areas, it would
appear, Ilhan Omar is the best advertisement to get
Republicans to the polls in 2020. If she had lost her
primary, it likely would have made it very difficult for
Trump to carry the state. As hard evidence for this
contention, I cite the fact that the GOP candidates for
Congress outside the Twin Cities are making Ilhan
Omar’s behavior and statements issues against their
DFL opponents in their districts.
I am not now saying Trump will carry Minnesota, but
because of the controversies in the Twin Cities, and
figures like Ilhan Omar, the state is in play. Biden will
carry Minneapolis and St. Paul by very large margins,
but the cities themselves have only a fraction of the
state’s total vote. The real battleground in Minnesota is
in the Twin City suburbs. President Trump is not that
popular there, but Ilhan Omar and what suburban
voters consider her (and fellow ultra-progressive
DFLers’) economic schemes, might well be more
Meanwhile, just as Joe Biden enjoys a huge lead in
Minnesota’s inner cities, Donald Trump appears to be
way ahead in rural areas and small towns outstate.
It might change before election day, but right now,
thanks to Ilhan Omar and DFLers similar to her, the
president (like him or not) has a chance to win this state.
Copyright (c) 2020 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.