- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 4, 2020

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Louella Anderson likes law and order. She backs the police, and she opposes the rioting and looting that have erupted on the fringes of racial justice protests this year.

The 64-year-old self-described Republican from this Minneapolis suburb would seem like an easy vote for President Trump, but she is backing Democratic nominee Joseph R. Biden. Ms. Anderson said Mr. Trump has veered from “middle ground,” particularly in response to urban unrest, and she expects Mr. Biden to steer the country back.

“It is not working,” she said of the president’s law-and-order posture. “I think because of his message. … It just gets too out of hand. His message escalates things more.”

Ms. Anderson’s words sound a warning for the president, who is counting on his promise of safety to deliver suburban voters, particularly white women, who defected from the Republican Party in 2016 and nearly denied Mr. Trump a victory.

In Minnesota, Mr. Trump came within 2 percentage points of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. He has invested heavily in the state this year with hopes that his economic message will help him become the first Republican to win the state since 1972.

But the violent protests that have erupted in cities nationwide after the death of George Floyd, a Black man, while in the custody of Minneapolis police in May has given Mr. Trump an opening to try his law-and-order message.

Mr. Trump says Mr. Biden wants to cut funding for police departments, sympathizes with Antifa and refuses to stand up to the left-wing “mob” he blames for wreaking havoc.

In a television ad, law enforcement officials say Mr. Biden “does not have the backs of police officers” and warn that a Democrat in the White House means “we will all be in danger.”

“If you support the police and you want to be safe in your home and you want your children safe, support Donald Trump,” an officer says in the ad.

Polling suggests the public agrees with the law-and-order message.Whether it can break through the other news remains to be seen. It places lower on voters’ lists of priorities than the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mr. Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis Friday is complicating his campaign’s attempts to focus on anything but the pandemic.

Jeff Schuette, chair of the Minnesota Republican Party’s 2nd Congressional District Committee, said the law-and-order issue has been on the minds of voters. He said a Democrat he recently encountered while canvassing told him she wants her elected leaders “to keep the riots out of here.”

“But I don’t know how much I trust that to be a real issue,” he said.

An MPR News/Star Tribune/KARE-11 Minnesota poll released last week found a majority of voters believe the criminal justice system has a racial bias. The responses fell largely along partisan lines, with 77% of Democrats, 55% of independents and 34% of Republicans agreeing with that sentiment.

Mr. Biden has a 48% to 42% lead over Mr. Trump overall among registered voters in the state. The poll found that 8% of respondents were undecided.

Mr. Trump said Mr. Biden doesn’t want to come down too harshly on rioters because he would “lose his radical left supporters.”

“If he ever got to run this country and they ran it the way he would want to run it … our suburbs would be gone,” Mr. Trump said. “And you would see problems like you’ve never seen before.”

Mr. Biden said the president believes he benefits politically from the civil unrest.

“He doesn’t want to calm things down,” Mr. Biden said during the first of three scheduled presidential debates last week. “Instead of going in and talking to people and saying, ‘Let’s get everybody together, figure out how to deal with this,’ what’s he do? He just pours gasoline in the fire constantly and every single solitary time.”

A similar battle is playing out in Minnesota’s race for U.S. Senate.

Former Rep. Jason Lewis, a Republican, is running a television ad accusing Sen. Tina Smith of supporting a call by fellow Minnesota Democrat Rep. Ilhan Omar to “dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department.”

Minneapolis was on fire, yet Tina Smith supports the radical ‘defund the police’ movement and blames police,” the Lewis ad says.

Mrs. Smith said the death of Mr. Floyd has laid bare inequities and discrimination in the criminal justice system.

Ron Case, the mayor of Eden Prairie, said the line of attack against Democrats is “a bald-faced attempt” to rile up Mr. Trump’s base and is likely working on that front.

“But I do not believe it is going beyond his base,” Mr. Case said. “I think the reason is that it is so blatantly fear-based.”

Mr. Case said he has yet to find someone who backed Mrs. Clinton four years ago and plans to vote for Mr. Trump, but he has met people who regret backing Mr. Trump.

Biden supporters said the Democrat is more suited to address problems in police departments.

“President Trump knows to create trouble, but he doesn’t know how to cure it,” said Robert Brown, who voted for President George W. Bush in 2004.

“I agree with Joe Biden that there are some bad apples in police departments,” he said. “You don’t need to defund the police department — heck no. Reform it, yes.”

Lynn Rudick of Edina said she doesn’t understand how anyone would buy into Mr. Trump’s law-and-order message. She said he is a misogynist and a racist.

“I think any woman who votes for President Trump is a fool,” she said.

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