The DFL Party formally backed U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar's re-election campaign on Saturday. Delegates endorsed the state's senior senator for a second term at the party's convention in Rochester.
What Klobuchar's endorsement lacked in suspense the party tried to make up for with enthusiasm. Delegates suspended the convention rules and gave her the party backing by acclamation.
They loudly cheered and waved Klobuchar campaign signs as she slowly made her way to the podium with a Bruce Springsteen song roaring from the speakers.
"I proudly accept your endorsement," she said, "and I pledge to you this; I will continue to fight for what's right and I will always, always put Minnesota first."
Klobuchar listed her Senate accomplishments, from banning lead in children's toys to securing promised benefits for members of the military and addressing regulatory concerns of the state's medical device industry.
Klobuchar won her first Senate election in 2006 with relatively broad support in the politically divided state of Minnesota. In accepting the endorsement Saturday, she promoted herself as someone with a record of working across party lines.
"When it makes sense to reach across the aisle for support," she said, "I do it because I continue to believe that fighting for Minnesotans is not about what's right or what's left, it's about what's right and what's wrong."
After the endorsement, state Rep. Kurt Bills, the GOP-endorsed U.S. Senate candidate, issued a statement criticizing Klobuchar on deficit spending.
At the podium Klobuchar sought to head off such criticism.
"What's wrong is not just spending beyond our means but balancing the budget on the backs of the middle class and the seniors and the most vulnerable among us that is wrong," Klobuchar said. "What's right is a balanced approach shared by many in the Senate. Forty-five Democratic and Republican senators -- and I am one of them -- who have come together to advocate for a mix of spending cuts and revenues to reduce our debt where everyone shares in the solution."
Klobuchar appealed for help with her re-election, and she also urged Democrats to work hard from the top to the bottom of the ticket.
Just as Klobuchar's endorsement was a foregone conclusion, so too many Democrats think will be her re-election to a second term in the Senate. And, in fact, Washington, D.C.-based political analysts who handicap races around the country conclude Klobuchar's Senate seat is safe for Democrats going into the 2012 elections.
Ask convention delegate Bob Tammen from Soudan, Minn., whether Klobuchar will win, and he has a two-word answer: "Of course."
Tammen says he does not agree with every position Klobuchar takes; for example, he disagrees with her support for copper/nickel mining in northern Minnesota because of environmental concerns.
Still, Tammen says he'll be happy to vote for Klobuchar again for Senate and to help work for her re-election campaign.
"My wife and I marched in the Fourth of July parade last year for Amy; whether we have some differences on some issues, we live in a complicated economic environment in northern Minnesota. We have complicated politics. When the election comes, you select the best candidate, and Amy's the best candidate as far as we're concerned in northern Minnesota," Tammen said.
Beyond Klobuchar's endorsement, Gov. Mark Dayton's appearance provided another highlight at the convention. Two years ago the party banned Dayton from the convention floor and refused him a turn at the podium. Officials were angry Dayton would run a primary election campaign against their endorsed candidate, Margaret Anderson Kelliher. This time it was altogether different as delegates rose and cheered in a standing ovation as Dayton took the stage.
Like Klobuchar, Dayton urged Minnesota DFLers to work for Democrats ranging from President Barack Obama to state legislative candidates, and he called for the defeat of proposed constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage and requiring voter ID cards.
Dayton said Democrats need to regain control of both houses in the state Legislature, and he echoed his 2010 tax-the-rich campaign theme. "People ask me, 'What would happen with a DFL Legislature and a DFL governor?' The short answer is: 'a lot that you will like.' First of all, taxes would be fair in Minnesota; the richest Minnesota, the millionaires and the multimillionaires would pay their fair share, which means more."
Democrats will spend part of Sunday in Rochester working on political training with an emphasis on defeating the two Republican-backed constitutional amendments.