Amy Klobuchar’s presidential campaign originally struggled to get off the ground — after stories from disgruntled former staff members dominated the headlines after her launch. As a result, the then-relatively unknown Senator quickly dipped from nearly 4% in the polls to under 2% and, failed to make an impact in the first two Presidential debates.
If it hadn’t been for the media’s focus on those who used to work for Klobuchar, her campaign launch might have vaulted her into the top-tiers of candidates; which at that point included; Biden, Sanders, Harris, Warren, Booker and, O’Rourke. Indeed, her announcement — made during a snowstorm in Minneapolis — was clearly designed to make headlines and, show ‘toughness’ ahead of a race where she’d have to convince voters she was the one who could take on Trump.
“I think simply because you have different ideas doesn’t mean you’re not fighting for regular people.” — Amy Klobuchar
She even managed to make a viral tweet from her launch after Trump mocked her for talking about climate change during a blizzard (Even though climate change causes both extreme hot and cold weather, not just the former). Her retort, asking Trump how his hair would fair in a blizzard got over seventy-thousand Twitter likes, but that, like the substance of her speech, was not enough to shift the media’s focus off her treatment of staff. Klobuchar’s positioning of herself as an electable, more moderate, Midwestern candidate would later be overshadowed by the surge of South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who had been polling below 1% at the time of Klobuchar’s launch. Clearly, the campaign was not going the way the Senator had imagined.
However, there was always a lot of potential for Minnesota’s senior Senator — in fact, she is arguably a better representation of the modern Democratic party than any other candidate running; she’s a Midwestern, somewhat moderate (but socially liberal) women, with a strong electoral record in a swing-state.
Moderate Democrats are sick of being told that they can’t question the leftwards shift of their party without using “Republican talking points”
In an election where about two-thirds of primary voters are prioritising electability, it is Klobuchar — not Biden — who can make the most convincing case to be able to beat Trump. Indeed, after Trump nearly won Minnesota in 2016, Klobuchar won it by 24 points in 2018. In doing so, she won two congressional districts which the GOP had gained from Democrats in the House and, beat out the Democratic gubernatorial candidate by nearly two-hundred-thousand votes. Moreover, she consistently ranks as one of the top 10 most popular senators in Morning Consult’s quarterly polling. No other candidate can point to such a strong electoral record. Unfortunately, this gets little attention — in part due to outdated, gendered notions of electability.
Klobuchar struggled to get attention in the first two debates after not taking on a more unapologetically moderate tone — perhaps in fear of being crowded out by other low-polling moderates like Hickenlooper and Bennet. But after qualifying for the third and fourth debates while lower polling moderates didn’t even come close, she took advantage of a less crowded moderate lane.
Klobuchar — who achieved over ten times more donations than moderates such as, Hickenlooper and, Ryan — staked out her pragmatic position during the opening of the third debate. Her statement summarised all the key tenets of her candidacy and successfully differentiated her from the competition. She talked about what unites us being ‘greater than what divides us’ and, said she won’t make promises she can’t keep and, most memorably, said, “If you feel stuck in the middle of the extremes… you’ve got a home in me”. It perfectly encapsulated what Democrat’s want from the next President and, while it may not have played well with uber-progressive, ‘very-online’ activists who are eagerly conjuring up the next purity test to subject their fellow Democrats to, it played well with the middle of the country and, that’s exactly what it was supposed to do.
Below is a transcript of what Klobuchar said in that statement:
Good evening, Texas Southern. I believe that what unites us up here, the 10 of us, is much stronger than what divides us. And I think that’s true of our country, too.
Now, I may not be the loudest person up here, but I think we’ve already got that in the White House. (APPLAUSE)
Houston, we have a problem. This — we have a guy there that is literally running our country like a game show. He would rather lie than lead. I think we need something different.
I am someone that tells the truth. I don’t make promises that I can’t keep. I have people’s back. And I believe that to win, you bring people with you and that is how you govern, as well.
So, you’re going to hear a lot of ideas up here. Some will be great. But if you see that some of them seem a little off-track, I’ve got a better way. If you feel stuck in the middle of the extremes in our politics and you are tired of the noise and the nonsense, you’ve got a home with me, because I don’t want to be the president for half of America. I want to be the president for all of America. (APPLAUSE)
Klobuchar then re-emphasised this theme in this week’s debate; confronting Warren on Medicare For All and, saying, “I think simply because you have different ideas doesn’t mean you’re not fighting for regular people.” This line — once again — showing the Minnesota Senator to have the best grasp on what the majority of Democrats believe. More than anyone else, she understands that moderate Democrats are sick of being talked down to and told; that their positions are cowardly and weak and, that they care less about ordinary people than ‘progressives’ do and, they’re certainly sick of being told that they can’t question the leftwards shift of their party without using “Republican talking points”.
This was a message that clearly resonated with the average Democrat. Data from a 538 post-debate poll showed that the number of respondents considering voting for Klobuchar had spiked from 6.6% to 10.2%. That represented a 3.6 percentage point increase in those considering voting for her — a spike that no other candidate in the bottom to middle tier came any where near achieving. Meanwhile that same poll showed she was the only candidate for whom people’s confidence in her ability to beat Trump had increased after the debate.
Ultimately, Klobuchar understands moderate, pragmatic Democrats in a way no other candidate does. And, while her campaign’s rough start means she faces an uphill battle to get voters to give her proper consideration, it’s clear that if any part of the primary could be described as Amy Klobuchar’s moment, it’s this part right here.