Union members will be essential to Republican success in traditional Democratic strongholds in the Midwest, according to freshman Rep. Pete Stauber (R., Minn.).
Stauber became only the second Republican to win Minnesota's 8th district since 1947 when he defeated Democrat Joe Radinovich by 5 points in the 2018 midterms. He credited his victory to being a "common sense blue collar conservative" and said such an approach is necessary to put Minnesota in play in 2020. Stauber, who helped organize the Duluth Police Department's union and served as its president, told Wisconsin Rep. Sean Duffy (R.) in a podcast conversation that organized labor is definitely in play.
"A cop, yes, but a union president and you're a Republican. How do you marry that because some people might go, ‘well union members aren't Republicans?'" Duffy said in the recording.
"Yes, they are," Stauber said. He said blue collar and labor voters in Minnesota are increasingly open to voting for GOP candidates who support their livelihoods, which is why President Trump nearly became the first Republican to win Minnesota since 1972, losing to Hillary Clinton by 1.5 points. The 8th district, Stauber said, bought into "the positive message he brought to the working men and women" about energy exploration and mining. Democrats, meanwhile, have alienated many of their former constituents by inhibiting copper nickel mining in the region.
"These mines are unionized. Do you think President Trump will gain their vote in an upcoming election, and if he does, do you think Minnesota is in play in 2020?" Duffy asked.
"President Trump has already garnered much of their support because of what he believes [about] the oil industry, gas industry, our mining industry, our timber industry," he said. "Yes, Minnesota is going to be in play. I think Minnesota's 10 electoral votes are going to be crucial in 2020."
Trump pulled off a historic upset against Clinton in many Democratic strongholds by flipping union votes in 2016. He won Duffy's native Wisconsin, as well as Michigan and Pennsylvania, by only several thousand votes. His campaign rhetoric against free trade deals was essential to gaining those votes. Stauber and Duffy said the administration has largely delivered, pointing to the steel tariffs against China as an example.
"If we allow those like in China to dump steel on the global market you shut down all of our mines in Northern Minnesota," Duffy said.
Stauber said the region has seen job growth and wage gains associated with the tariffs because it has allowed American producers to avoid being undersold by Chinese competitors.
"The miners are working second and third shifts, we're opening up mines," Stauber said. "For us, it's an economic advantage to have the president step up and say to the country of China no more steel dumping."
Trump has continued to try to reach a new trade deal with China to tamp down on those tariffs. Trump announced on Friday that he will declare a national emergency to obtain funding for a border wall, but he opened his remarks by saying the administration has made progress in negotiations with China.
"We're very much working very closely with China and President Xi, who I respect a lot, very good relationship that we have, and we're a lot closer than we ever were in this country with having a real trade deal," Trump said.
The podcast is scheduled to be released Friday afternoon.