WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump returned to the campaign trail Wednesday with a rally in Minnesota, seeking to reframe the debate with Democratic nominee Joe Biden that was beset by frequent interruptions and personal attacks as a “win.”

“All of us won big last night,” Trump told supporters at the Duluth International Airport. “Liberal media is upset that I took the fight to Biden.”

Both sides claimed victory in the 90-minute debate, even as independent analysts said the bitter exchanges left little room for a serious policy discussion and probably did little to convince persuadable voters on way or the other. Trump recounted what he viewed as the highlights of the debate: Including his focus on law and order.

“I held Joe Biden accountable,” Trump asserted. 

Biden, who campaigned in Ohio and Pennsylvania on Thursday, said the debate illustrated that Trump cares more about Park Avenue than the former vice president’s birthplace of Scranton, Pennsylvania, or working-class cities in Ohio. During a rally in the Keystone State on Wednesday, Biden noted Trump declined to directly condemn white supremacy when pressed on the point by moderator Chris Wallace.    

“We can’t afford to go on being divided,” Biden said. “We can’t go on having a leader that does nothing but throw gasoline on the hatred in this country.”  

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Trump and his campaign see Minnesota as a special project, their best chance to flip a state Hillary Clinton narrowly won in 2016. Trump came within 1.5 percentage points of claiming Minnesota four years ago, a state that no Republican presidential candidate has won since Richard Nixon in 1972.

Trump has campaigned in the state twice before this year, including a rally in Bemidji this month

Trump believes that violent demonstrations against police brutality in Minneapolis will bolster his “law and order” campaign theme, though there is no public polling evidence that shows that approach is working. In fact, the RealClearPolitics average of recent state polls gives Biden a 9.4 point lead in the state.

During previous visits to Minnesota, Trump promoted his tariffs on Chinese steel to bolster local mining, his renegotiation of the trade deal with Canada for dairy farmers and funding for the Soo Locks shipping channel that is critical to trade on the Great Lakes. Biden has focused on his support among steelworkers and other unions, with a proposal to spur domestic manufacturing through federal spending.

Trump faced questions during the debate Tuesday for continuing to hold campaign rallies during the coronavirus pandemic, though he noted that most – but not all – of those events have been held outdoors and so far have not led to outbreaks. 

“People want to hear what I have to say,” Trump said. 

Contributing: Bart Jansen 

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