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It is not clear yet if Donald Trump's 34 campaign-finance convictions in New York will change any Minnesotan minds, as political observers say most people formed their opinions of the former president years ago.

Until new polls assess how Minnesota voters feel about his convictions in New York on Thursday, it will be difficult to tell if the felonies will help or hurt his chances here — and if he will help or hurt Republicans seeking to retake the state House this fall.

"We are really in uncharted territory now," said Amy Koch, onetime Republican state Senate Majority Leader. "I keep saying it, but then the boat gets further from shore."

Koch said she was waiting to see polls to gauge the impact of the news on voters.

"A conviction like this may alter public opinion, and that's what we're all wondering about," said Steven Schier, professor emeritus of political science at Carleton College.

Koch wondered how much the convictions would change the landscape. "Could be that it's already baked in," she said. "He's been on trial for weeks now and it doesn't seem to be affecting the polls."

But Schier said he saw the verdicts as another challenge for Republicans in Minnesota. Between Trump's convictions, and controversial Senate candidate Royce White winning the GOP endorsement, Schier said he saw some headwinds for the state Republican Party.

"Would you rather be chair of the state DFL or the state Republican Party dealing with this situation?" Schier said.

Republicans dismissive

Many Minnesota Republicans dismissed the convictions, saying they considered the trial political. In statements, Republican U.S. Reps. Tom Emmer, Pete Stauber and Michelle Fischbach said they considered the trial "political" and "rigged."

State Rep. Isaac Schultz, R-Elmdale Township, posted on X within minutes of the convictions to say he had donated to Trump's campaign. In an interview, he said he also thought the trial was political. Both he and David Hann, the Minnesota Republican Party's chair, said they considered Trump's convictions distinct from the charges against state Sen. Nicole Mitchell, DFL-Woodbury, because they thought Trump had been charged for political reasons, not based on evidence.

Schultz said he did not think Republicans should focus on the convictions during the campaign this fall, and instead draw a contrast between Trump and Biden on immigration, and link Biden to inflation.

"Republicans are the ones who have the energy," Schultz said. "Republicans pick up seats in the Minnesota Legislature when Trump is on the ballot."

Jeff Hayden, a lobbyist and former Democratic state legislator, said he thought the convictions would turn off voters who are not already loyal to Trump, but said it was still difficult to predict the nuances of local issues in down-ballot races.

Polarized lenses

Hann said there was a clear partisan divide in the way the convictions were seen in Minnesota.

"On one side, people have already been treating him as if he's convicted," Hann said "On the other side, there are people who say this is politically motivated."

State Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, said he sees the reactions to Trump's convictions as another symptom of political polarization. Garofalo, who is not running for re-election, said he sees that polarization making it harder for people to hold members of their own party to account.

"Half the country will see President Trump as a victim and the other half will see him as a felon," Garofalo said, with different TV stations reinforcing those divides. "I was watching CNN and Fox News at the same time, and it was like they were reporting on entirely different events."

While Trump, Hann and other Republicans said the election results will be the real verdict on the former president, Garofalo said he worries the loser of the election won't accept the results.

In Minnesota, Garofalo said, he hoped for divided government next year, and more cross-party collaboration to soften the divide. But he is worried, he said.

"The bigger concern is political polarization is just ripping our country apart," he said.