See more of the story

President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden will converge on Minnesota next Friday in separate campaign stops marking the start of early voting in a state that could be critical in the November election.

The Trump campaign announced Thursday that he will host a "Great American Comeback Event" in Bemidji; Biden's campaign said only that the former vice president will campaign in Minnesota but released no further details.

The visit will be Biden's first as a Democratic nominee for president. Trump traveled to the Twin Cities and Mankato last month.

The convergence of two major party presidential candidates is a rarity in Minnesota politics two months before an election, suggesting that the state has become a strategic milepost for both campaigns.

Biden's trip follows that of his wife, Jill Biden, who campaigned Wednesday in Minnesota.

Trump's visit also follows stops by several family members: daughter-in-law Lara Trump campaigned in the state Thursday, and his son Donald Trump Jr. was in Minnesota on Wednesday. Vice President Mike Pence also recently campaigned in Duluth.

The Midwestern campaign swing represents a new phase in the Biden campaign, which until recently had largely eschewed in-person travel in favor of virtual events out of concern for the corona­virus pandemic. Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris took part in a virtual Minnesota roundtable earlier this month.

Minnesota Republicans have attacked Biden's absence, noting that it has been more than 1,000 days since he has been in the state, which Trump narrowly lost in 2016. Since taking office, Trump has been back to Minnesota five times, vowing to win a state he lost by fewer than 45,000 votes to Hillary Clinton.

The flurry of campaign stops by Trump, Biden and others underscores the state's importance in the race for the presidency. Though long a Democratic stronghold in presidential politics, Minnesota has become a focus of the Trump campaign's efforts.

Trump's campaign has devoted significant resources to wooing rural white voters, particularly in northern Minnesota.

Both Trump and Biden stopped last week in Kenosha, Wis., the scene of violent protests over the recent police shooting of an unarmed Black man.

A Morning Consult poll released Wednesday showed Joe Biden with a 5-point edge over Trump in Minnesota, but Biden's lead has narrowed from previous polls. Another released Wednesday, by SurveyUSA for KSTP-TV, found Biden with a 9-point lead.