Trump endorses Jensen, Crockett for Minnesota governor, secretary of state

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Former President Donald Trump announced his endorsements for two Minnesota candidates Tuesday, just two weeks before 2022 Election Day.

Earlier in the day, Trump endorsed Kim Crockett, the Republican candidate for secretary of state running against Democratic incumbent Steve Simon. The Democratic-Farmer-Laborer Party responded by citing Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election being stolen and saying Crockett has echoed those claims. Crockett said she will guard “every eligible vote” if elected, according to the Associated Press.

Late Tuesday night, Trump also endorsed Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Jensen, who is running against Democratic incumbent Tim Walz. KSTP has reached out to the Walz campaign for comment and will update this article with any response.

Both endorsements came on Truth Social, a social media platform created by Trump Media & Technology Group this year.

Neither candidate appeared to have expected the endorsement. The Associated Press reported Crockett was surprised by Trump’s announcement, and in a press release, Jensen’s campaign said in part, “While we have not actively sought the endorsement of political leaders, we are grateful for those who have recognized our ability to lead and Heal Minnesota […] However, ultimately, we only care about one endorsement: the support of Minnesota voters.”

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“The battle in Minnesota for the governor’s race is a toss-up and at this point both candidates are fighting for the undecided independent vote,” said Larry Jacobs, a University of Minnesota professor. 

Jacobs described Trump’s endorsement as “a risk”.

“The independents who blame him for January 6th attack and the mishandling of top secret documents could hold it against Scott Jensen,” he said. “On the other hand, Donald Trump has tremendous support among Republicans and in a midterm election, it’s often a battle of turning out your base. Donald Trump could be the factor that gets out a bit more Republicans than Jensen had hoped for.”

Leading up to the 2018 midterm elections, Trump visited Minnesota several times. Republican candidates including Karin Housley, Jim Hagedorn, and Jason Lewis joined him on stage during his rallies.

Trump endorsed at least half a dozen candidates in Minnesota, including Republican Jeff Johnson who ran for governor.

Governor Tim Walz was endorsed by former President Barack Obama in 2018, who also endorsed more than a dozen candidates in the state.

“Until very recently, former presidents stayed out of politics,” said David Schultz, a political science professor at Hamline University. “Obama coming back, people such as Trump coming back beyond the White House, that’s very unusual. […] Generally they kind of walk away from the political scene and don’t get in the game in endorsing. This I think reflects the changing polarization and the changing partisanship in our society.”

Schultz explained it’s hard to measure how significantly these endorsements affect campaigns because there are so many factors at play.

“Endorsements per se probably don’t move that many people but the whole purpose of endorsements are to get the base excited,” said Schultz. “Trump is popular with Republican base, Biden is not popular with the democratic base and that might explain something in terms of who is showing up to endorse.”

The Biden administration hasn’t formally endorsed Gov. Walz as he campaigns for re-election. The Governor didn’t attend Vice President Kamala Harris’ reproductive rights roundtable on Saturday. Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan participated in the panel instead.

Harris’ appearance at a Walz campaign fundraiser on Saturday evening was closed to news cameras. While his campaign won’t comment on whether President Biden has offered his support, a spokesperson confirmed there aren’t any presidential visits planned before Election Day.

“It would be interesting to find out if there was any kind of conversations going on because yes Biden did win the state but he’s less popular now,” said Schultz.  “We don’t know what the conversation was but it might very well be that Walz said ‘don’t come, don’t endorse, I’m concerned about how this might play in terms of you being less popular than me’.”

Meanwhile, Gov. Tim Walz issued a response via social media Wednesday:

“Last night, Donald Trump endorsed my opponent. This isn’t a shock: Jensen has spent this campaign emulating Trump by embracing the Big Lie and pledging to jail Secretary Steve Simon. Minnesota will not be divided by dangerous conspiracy theories and hateful rhetoric.”

Minnesota DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin released the following statement in response:

“Scott Jensen has embraced the Big Lie, even calling for throwing our Secretary of State in jail. Now, Donald Trump has rewarded him with an endorsement. Fortunately, voters who don’t want their governor to jail their political enemies and spread dangerous lies about our elections can prevent that from happening in Minnesota by re-electing Tim Walz.”

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