Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., became the latest Democrat to throw her hat in the ring for the 2020 presidential race – announcing on Sunday her candidacy during a speech in Minneapolis’ frigid and snowy Boom Island Park.
Klobuchar, a moderate, Midwestern Democrat who has served in the Senate since 2007, highlighted in speech her ability to work across the aisle with Republicans and her “grit” as Democrats try to win back voters in a region that supported then-candidate Donald Trump in the 2016 race.
“We worked across the aisle to get the federal funding and we rebuilt that I-35W bridge — in just over a year,” Klobuchar said in her speech with the Interstate 35 bridge over the Mississippi River as her backdrop. “That’s community. That’s a shared story. That’s ordinary people doing extraordinary things,” she said in her prepared remarks.
She added: “But that sense of community is fracturing across our nation right now, worn down by the petty and vicious nature of our politics. We are all tired of the shutdowns and the putdowns, of the gridlock and the grandstanding. Today on this snowy island, we say enough is enough. Our nation must be governed not from chaos but from opportunity. Not by wallowing over what’s wrong, but my marching inexorably toward what’s right.”
The I-35W Mississippi River bridge collapsed in August 2007, killing 13 people.
The Minnesota Democrat becomes the eighth major candidate – and the fifth Democratic senator – to announce a bid for president or the formation of an exploratory committee. Klobuchar’s announcement came a day after Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., officially launched her presidential campaign.
“I don’t have a lot of money,” she said on Sunday. “I have grit. I have family. I have friends, and I have you.”
Klobuchar, 58, is hoping to belay her success in her home state – she easily won a third term last year and has enjoyed broad support from voters in urban, suburban and rural areas, including in dozens of counties Trump won in 2016 – and her reputation as a straight-shooting pragmatist who gets legislation passed onto the national stage. Klobuchar already is scheduled to speak Feb. 21 in Iowa, the site of the nation’s first caucuses on the nominating calendar.
Her campaign, however, ran into a speed bump even before she made her presidential announcement when HuffPost reported this week that Klobuchar had such a bad reputation over her treatment of staff that a number of potential staffers withdrew from consideration to manage her campaign because of it.
Some former staffers described Klobuchar as “habitually demeaning and prone to bursts of cruelty,” although others said that while working for Klobuchar was challenging, it was also rewarding. Some pushed back and questioned whether those making the accusations “were falling for sexist stereotypes about female leaders with high standards.”
Klobuchar’s team issued a lengthy statement saying she has been “proud” of her staff.
Klobuchar’s focus in recent months has included prescription drug prices, a new farm bill and election security. She supported the “Green New Deal,” a Democratic plan proposed this past week to combat climate change and create thousands of jobs in renewable energy.
However, her legislative record has drawn criticism from both the GOP and some fellow Democrats. Some Republicans said Klobuchar has been able to get things done by pushing smaller issues. Some progressives said she’d lacked the kind of fire and bold ideas needed to bring significant change and excite voters.
Klobuchar, a lawyer and the former prosecutor in Minnesota’s largest county, raised her national profile during a Senate Judiciary Committee last fall for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who was accused of sexually assaulting a woman when they were both in high school.
When Klobuchar asked Kavanaugh whether he ever had had so much to drink that he didn’t remember what happened, he turned the question around. He asked Klobuchar, “Have you?”
Unruffled, Klobuchar continued as Kavanaugh asked again. Kavanaugh later apologized to Klobuchar, whose father is an alcoholic.
“When you have a parent who’s an alcoholic, you’re pretty careful about drinking,” she said. “I was truly trying to get to the bottom of the facts and the evidence.”
While Klobuchar has positioned herself as the only Democratic candidate able to win back other Midwestern states such as Michigan and Wisconsin, which were reliably Democratic in presidential races for decades until Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton, that could change as more candidates enter the fold.
Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio has been visiting early-voting states and is rumored to be considering a run and Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, established an exploratory committee last month. There is also widespread speculation that former Vice President Joe Biden could enter the field.
“She starts out, perhaps, with a better understanding of Midwestern voters, but I think she faces the same hurdles every one of them face, which is: Are Iowans going to find them either the best candidate to defeat Donald Trump or the candidate that most aligns with their ideologies and issues?” John Norris, a longtime Iowa-based Democratic strategist, told The Associated Press. “I don’t know that coming from Minnesota gives her any advantage with Iowans.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.