The wide Democratic field of 2020 presidential candidates expanded further Sunday when U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota threw her hat in the ring at an outdoor event on a freezing afternoon in Minneapolis.
Klobuchar, 58, hopes her working-class, Midwestern background will help her seize the middle ground in a Democratic primary in which many of the candidates who have announced generally appeal to the party’s more liberal wing.
As the snow came down and the temperatures hovered in the high teens, Klobuchar announced:
“I stand before you as the granddaughter of an iron ore miner, as the daughter of a teacher and a newspaperman, as the first woman elected to the United States Senate from the state of Minnesota, to announce my candidacy for president of the United States.”
Klobuchar delivered her remarks at Boom Island Park on the shores of the Mississippi River. According to The Weather Channel, it was 16 degrees Fahrenheit around the time she made her announcement, but it felt like 7 degrees with the wind chill.
“I don’t come from money,” Klobuchar said. “But what I do have is this: I have grit. I have family. I have friends. I have neighbors. I have all of you who are willing to come out in the middle of the winter, all of you who took the time to watch us today from home, all of you who are willing to stand up and say people matter.”
President Donald Trump weighed in on the announcement from the latest Democrat hoping to unseat him with a tweet questioning the legitimacy of climate change concerns by pointing to the cold in Minnesota.
“Well, it happened again. Amy Klobuchar announced that she is running for President, talking proudly of fighting global warming while standing in a virtual blizzard of snow, ice and freezing temperatures. Bad timing. By the end of her speech she looked like a Snowman(woman)!” he said.
Trump has made other such remarks in the past, at one point prompting CNN’s Anderson Cooper to suggest he visit NASA’s website for children that explains the difference between weather and climate.
In 2006, Klobuchar became the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate from Minnesota. Last year, she won re-election to a third term with 60 percent of the vote in a state that President Donald Trump lost by only 1.5 percentage points.
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She is banking on that success carrying over into other Midwestern states to give her an edge in the Iowa caucuses. If she can secure the nomination, she hopes she will get a boost in states such as Wisconsin and Michigan, which were key to Trump’s upset over Hillary Clinton in 2016.
“I think you want voices from places where Donald Trump did very well,” she told CNN in December. “My state, for instance, he almost won in 2016, and we came roaring back in 2018.”
Klobuchar, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, gained national attention during the contentious confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. In one exchange during which Klobuchar asked Kavanaugh about his alcohol consumption, she spoke of growing up with an alcoholic father.
She voted against Kavanaugh, as well as Justice Neil Gorsuch. She opposed most of Trump’s Cabinet nominees, including Jeff Sessions, Betsy DeVos, Steven Mnuchin, Rick Perry and Ben Carson. But, according to FiveThirtyEight, she voted with Trump 31.5 percent of the time, the highest among the five Democratic senators officially running in the primary.
Klobuchar is more moderate than some of her primary opponents on a couple of Democratic issues. Unlike Sens. Kamala Harris of California, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, she opposes the elimination of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. Although she says the USA needs expansive health care, she has not endorsed the Medicare for All plan supported by Harris and Sen. Bernie Sanders.
“She is more pragmatic on policy issues and less driven by identity politics, which gives the Democratic Party a chance at appealing to some of the voters they lost in that region of the country to Donald Trump in 2016,” said Lori Cox Han, a political science professor at Chapman University in California. “She is perhaps less well known, but that could work to her advantage in the early stages as she has a chance to introduce herself to a broader audience.”
One early hurdle for the Minnesota Democrat is a BuzzFeed News report based on interviews with eight of her former staffers who accused her of running “a workplace controlled by fear, anger and shame.” The article said the senator “regularly berated” her staff over minor mistakes.
A report from Politico in March 2018 found she had the highest rate of staff turnover in the Senate from 2001 to 2016.
Other staffers have come forward to defend her publicly, including Asal Saya, her former director of scheduling who told BuzzFeed that Klobuchar was “one of the best bosses I’ve ever had.” Saya said Klobuchar was held to a different standard than a male lawmaker might be.
“Women shouldn’t be expected to nurture their employees or colleagues more than men, and they should be no less entitled to challenge them,” she said. “As a strong woman, it was inspiring to work for another strong woman that was direct, incredibly smart and a leader.”
“Senator Klobuchar loves her staff – they are the reason she has gotten to where she is today,” her campaign told BuzzFeed in response to the report. “She is proud of them and the work they have done for Minnesota.”
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