Minnesota Republicans delivered a decisive victory Tuesday to the lone name listed on their presidential primary ballot: Donald Trump.
A comparatively small number of Republican voters appeared to have turned out at the polls, but party leaders said Tuesday’s turnout does not reflect the excitement of their base.
“We know that there’s a lot of energy and enthusiasm for him from our entire state,” Republican Party Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan said at a Make America Great Again watch party in Minneapolis.
With more than half of precincts reporting, nearly 80,000 Minnesotans had showed up for the Republican primary, while more than 470,000 people participated in the contested Democratic race, according to the Secretary of State’s office.
More than 97% of Republican voters had cast their ballot for Trump, and just 2.6% of Republican voters wrote in a name other than the president.
“THANK YOU MINNESOTA!” Trump tweeted out Tuesday night, as it became clear all 39 of the state’s delegates would be his.
Carnahan released a statement as the results rolled in saying: “While the Democrats grapple with the division in their own party, Minnesotans are eager and excited to join together and work towards four more years of a Trump presidency.”
This is the state’s first presidential primary in decades, after switching from a caucus system. So it is unclear how turnout for Trump compares to past incumbents.
Minnesota Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka pointed to Trump’s events as a better indicator of voter excitement than the number who show up for a primary where the president’s win is a given.
“Just look at the events that Trump holds and the enthusiasm and size of the meetings everywhere he goes,” he said. Gazelka said he even weighed whether to make the two and a half-hour drive from St. Paul to vote in his East Gull Lake precinct, but ultimately decided, “I’ll do my part.”
Matthew Dalchow, a veteran and a welder from Virginia, Minn., also decided to turn out for Trump. The 38-year-old thinks the economy has thrived during Trump’s first term and said he believes increased border security has made the country safer.
“He’s putting Americans first,” Dalchow said.
That was a common sentiment among Trump supporters who gathered at the University of Minnesota’s Minneapolis campus for a primary watch party.
Jade Ochu, of Zimmerman, drove to the University of Minnesota’s Minneapolis campus Tuesday night to participate in a Make America Great Again watch party. She said Trump’s views align most closely with her own, and she sees Democratic proposals about college loan forgiveness as “false hope.”
While it was clear President Trump would win, Ochu, 18, said she was excited to cast her ballot Tuesday.
“I feel like it’s my duty as a citizen. It’s what I’ve looked forward to since I turned 18. I registered at 12:01 a.m. when I turned 18 so I could be ready to vote,” she said.
Drew Allred, a sophomore at the University of Minnesota, also attended the watch party. He said he didn’t have time to vote Tuesday, but will definitely be at the polls in November.
“It’s very important that once Election Day comes we don’t get complacent and just say, ‘Oh, Trump is most likely going to win.’ Because that’s what happened with Hillary,” he said.
The president’s quest for the nomination has been virtually unopposed. Trump opponent Bill Weld, who was governor of Massachusetts in the 1990s, had secured a single Republican National Convention delegate ahead of Super Tuesday. Weld wasn’t on the ballot here.
The Minnesota Republican Party announced last year that they would only list President Trump’s name on the ballot, a decision that drew some backlash. One voter, who supported a different candidate, challenged the law that allows party chairs to pick who is on a primary ballot. The case landed in the Minnesota Supreme Court, which rejected the challenge.
Staff writer Katie Galioto contributed to this report.