By JOHN VERHOVEK and MOLLY NAGLE, ABC News
(DULUTH, Minn.) — Former Vice President Joe Biden will make a campaign swing through Minnesota on Friday, a state Democrats have not lost in a presidential election since 1972 but saw an unexpectedly tight race in 2016 between President Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
The trip to Minnesota, which includes a tour of a union facility and remarks in the city of Duluth, coincides with the first day of in-person early voting in the state, marking a new and more urgent phase of the 2020 race for both candidates.
Recent polling in the state shows Biden with a firm edge over Trump. A poll conducted this week by ABC News and the Washington Post shows the former vice president with a healthy 16-point lead over the Republican incumbent.
The visit caps off a week of travel for Biden, with the former vice president making trips to critical battleground states including Florida and Pennsylvania, along with giving remarks in his home state of Delaware and at a nationally-televised town hall Thursday night near his hometown of Scranton.
Trump is also set to visit northern Minnesota on Friday, holding an event at an airplane hanger in Bemidji, continuing a string of aggressive campaign events that largely flout local restrictions to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
Despite Minnesota’s typically Democratic-leaning electorate, Trump’s reelection campaign has expressed optimism that the president will be able to compete there after Clinton’s narrow win in 2016, and both campaigns are currently running television advertisements to try to sway voters.
“We’re going all-in on Minnesota,” Jason Miller, a senior advisor to the Trump campaign, said on a call with reporters earlier this month. “We think it’s a state we can win.”
Democrats have expressed similar feelings about their chances.
“I feel quite good about Minnesota. We’ve invested for some time in Minnesota because we also looked at the data. Hillary Clinton won Minnesota by a point and a half in 2016. Third party candidates Gary Johnson and Jill Stein got about 5.2% of the vote. The majority of that came from Secretary Clinton. And so we’ve been investing early and everywhere in Minnesota,” Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez told reporters this month.
Trump and Biden’s dueling visits to Minnesota comes less than two weeks before the two will face off during the first presidential debate Sept. 29 — a critical test as the 2020 election enters into the final weeks.
“I have gone back and talked about and looked at not only the things he said, but making sure I can concisely say what I’m for and what I’m going to do,” Biden said of his debate preparation during a CNN town hall Thursday night.
“There are a couple of people, they asked me questions if they were like as if they were President Trump, but I’m looking forward to it,” he continued, when asked if anyone was set to spar with him as Trump in mock debates.
Meanwhile, Trump is expected to forgo traditional debate prep with no plans to hold private mock debates, multiple sources tell ABC News.
Instead, the president has started preparing with top aides, getting briefings on likely topics.
“I’ve said before that the best debate prep that exists is to be president every day. Part of debate prep is going back and watching Joe Biden’s old debates which I and some of us here have done,” Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien said on a call with reporters earlier this month.
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