This week, the Trump campaign announced that the candidate will make another stop in Minnesota to close out this week on Friday. This time, the stop is scheduled to be in Rochester, which has quickly moved to the left over the past couple decades as the DFL has made gains among college educated white voters. This city of Rochester has been voting much the same as the 3rd Congressional District has been. Both are roughly both equally more educated and less white than the state as a whole. Just twenty years ago, while winning the state by 2.4 points, Al Gore lost the city of Rochester by 4.6 points. Four years ago, while winning the state by a more narrow 1.5 points, Hillary Clinton carried the city by nearly 10 points. In that period, the city has grown from a population of 86,000 and casting 40,000 votes in the presidential race to a population 119,000 now after having cast 57,000 votes in 2016.
The largest employer in the city is, by far, the Mayo Clinic. Therefore, there are a significant number of affluent college educated medical professionals living in and around the city. The next largest employer in the area is an IBM plant which was bought in 2018 by Industrial Industry Group of Los Angeles and renamed the Rochester Technology Campus. The employment situation in Rochester is better than the state as a whole. September jobs data puts the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for the state of Minnesota at 6% while the unemployment in the City of Rochester is 4.9%.
The Trump campaign’s trip Rochester serves two key purposes. For one, the 1st Congressional district is seen as highly competitive and the GOP needs to build back up the 2016 Trump coalition that the DFL cut into in 2018. The second is that Trump is going to need to at the very least hold the line among college educated white voters compared to 2016 to have a realistic chance to flip the state. While there are fewer registered voters in some 2016 Trump counties which will likely result in the President needed to grow his rural numbers by at least a few points over 2016, the big trouble is in population centers such as Rochester as well as Duluth, St. Cloud, Moorhead and Mankato.
Senate Districts 25 and 26
In the Rochester area, there are two Republican held Senate seats that the DFL is making a play for this cycle. One of which, the 26th, is seen as one of the party’s best pick-up opportunities. The two districts split the city of Rochester and therefore contain some of the fairly red small cities and townships in the surrounding area. While the city of Rochester has shifted to voting blue like the Twin Cities suburbs, the surrounding areas more closely resemble the fairly red exurban areas around the Twin Cities such as Wright, Sherburne, Isanti and Chisago counties. If Rochester continues to shift to the left, even with control of the redistricting process (if they flip the State Senate next week) the DFL will likely decide that they will benefit in the long run by “cracking” Rochester into two purple/light blue districts rather than creating one reliably safe seat.
While neither Senate district was particularly competitive in 2016 at the State Senate level, Clinton came within the low single digits of carrying each. Clinton’s performance was largely reliant on her numbers in Rochester as she lost the non-Rochester portions of each district by significant margins. If, as expected, there is less ticket-splitting down-ballot this cycle, the GOP Senate candidates in these districts will need Trump to be able to more or less match his 2016 performance.
House District 26B
While the DFL already holds the two State House districts that contain most of the city of Rochester, there is a seat that contains a small portion of the district that they are hoping to flip this cycle. The party was able to recruit a candidate, Randy Brock, with name recognition as a former meteorologist with KTTC-TV (the local NBC affiliate in Rochester). While the districts is still seen as a bit of a stretch for the DFL, this will be one of the key districts to look at on election night if Joe Biden is performing more in like with the high end of his polling in the state.
Aaron Booth (@ActorAaronBooth) is a contributor to Decision Desk HQ.