Strong suspicions that Senator Amy Klobuchar would run for president in 2020 were confirmed on a freezing Sunday afternoon in Minneapolis, just 11 miles from her hometown of Plymouth, Minnesota.
“For every worker, farmer, dreamer, and builder, I am running. I am running for every American,” she proclaimed, pledging to get “dark money” out of politics, institute automatic voter registration for 18 year olds, and rejoin the Paris accord to deal with climate change.
The weather provided a steady, sticky snowfall but a relatively temperate 17F that brought supporters out by the thousands, undeterred. “It could be 30 [degrees] below – doesn’t matter,” Steve Baribdau, 68, of Minneapolis’s “twin city” of Saint Paul said, laughing at the idea that the weather could prevent him or the cluster of fellow Teamsters, a union group focused on labor rights, he came with.
In opening remarks that set the tone for the announcement, Minneapolis mayor Jacob Frey praised Klobuchar’s ability to “get things done” and the mitten and snow pants-clad crowd erupted in cheers.
A hundred meandering volunteers handed out cookies reading “Team Amy” in green icing, hot chocolate, cider and hand warmers to help attendees stave off the chill. The buoyant festivities bustled with local entertainment including the Twin Cities’ Sounds of Blackness and a local high school drumming team.
Her speech relied on a metaphor tied to the event’s Boom Island location, situated along the Mississippi river and part of Minneapolis’ highly-decorated parks system, to form her foundational message of unity. “The Mississippi River – all our rivers – connect us to one another, to our shared story. For that is how this country was founded, with patriots who saw more that united them than divided them,” she said.
Klobuchar referred to the devastating 2007 collapse of the I-35W bridge along the same river. She shared tales of heroic and selfless Minnesotans such as a truck driver who lost his life in an effort to save a school bus filled with children on the bridge that August day, creating a contrast to political divisiveness.
“But, my friends, that sense of community is fracturing across our nation right now, worn down by the petty and vicious nature of our politics,” she explained. “We are all tired of the shutdowns and the putdowns, the gridlock and the grandstanding. 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.”
Another Teamster, Bob McNattin, 80, said the group came to return the support they’ve received from Klobuchar over the years. “She has been rock-solid on our behalf,” he notes. “She is co-sponsor in the Senate of a bill that would solve our problem, and not just the Teamster problem, but all union pension problems. And we want to make sure she knows that we’re here because she’s been there for us.”
Quietly passing the most Senate bills in 2016, Klobuchar gained fame beyond Minneapolis and Washington DC, for her role in the recent confirmation hearings of supreme court judge Brett Kavanaugh. In an exchange with then nominee, Klobuchar responded to Kavanaugh’s brazen inquiry into her drinking habits with a mention of her experience with her father’s alcoholism – and she remained largely unmoved by his eventual apology.
What supporters see as a no-nonsense dedication to productivity drew many from across the state. Serena Pitala, 32, of Chisago City has supported Klobuchar in her Senate races because “she is a workhorse… somebody who’s going to get things done.”
Klobuchar became the state’s first woman elected to the Senate with her 2006 win and was re-elected in both 2012 and 2018. “She seems no-drama, just straight working for the people of Minnesota, which I can appreciate,” says Amanda Nelson, 27, of Minneapolis.
Klobuchar’s speech lacked charismatic delivery, despite earnest content. She stumbled a little, mid-sentence, just before saying she stood before the people to “announce my candidacy for president of the United States”, to whoops from the crowd, many of whom waved placards saying: “Amy for America”.
Highlighting her work ethic, she cited her grandfather’s job as an iron ore miner. “I will look you in the eye. I will tell you what I think … And no matter what, I’ll lead from the heart,” she declared.
It’s the unassuming tenacity of the midwest brand that Dr Paul Goren, a professor and chair of the political science department at the University of Minnesota, sees as setting Klobuchar apart from the growing Democratic pack for 2020.
“A lot of candidates who have announced … they’re all east coast or west coast liberals. Klobuchar is a liberal as well, but a liberal of the midwest, or upper midwest, which can be seen as a liberalism that’s less extreme,” Goren said.
Although reports have recently surfaced that she can be a scathing boss, he doesn’t see voters getting hung up on that.
“I’ve been in Minnesota for over a dozen years. There has never been even a whiff of scandal surrounding her,” Goren says, and that might just be the ticket she needs to oust her competition. “She’s been on the national scene and been there for a while. She’s a nice contrast to President Trump in that way – a competent manager and gets thing done.”