As Sen. Amy Klobuchar takes her Democratic presidential campaign back to New Hampshire this week, the candidate and her supporters are claiming momentum in polling and fundraising.
Observers say Klobuchar still has a long way to climb to reach the top tier of 2020 Democratic candidates — but she's well-positioned to capitalize if any of the front-runners trip up.
“If you’re watching a horse race, she’s been one of the horses a couple of lengths behind on the outside, just waiting for the front-runners to slow down or stumble in some way," said Drake University political science professor Dennis Goldford.
Klobuchar spent the weekend in Iowa, where she promoted her latest endorsement — well-known Iowa Democrat and former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa Roxanne Conlin. Klobuchar said she has more current and former Iowa lawmakers endorsing her than any other Democratic presidential candidate.
Klobuchar is focusing on electability, highlighting relatively moderate — and what she claims are realistic and practical — policy proposals.
She's calling for broadening the appeal of the party, and says doing so would not only position Democrats to defeat President Trump — but also hold the House, take over control of the U.S. Senate and win legions of down-ballot races.
“We have got to bring in the people that maybe stayed home last time — because I don’t believe in shutting people out, I believe in bringing them in," she said.
Klobuchar and her supporters attribute her momentum to a strong debate performance in mid-October, where she took on far-left plans some Democratic presidential hopefuls are pushing in areas such as health care.
She said her campaign raised $2 million in less than a week after the October debate. The cash is paying for more TV ads in Iowa and New Hampshire, and a fancy coach bus wrapped in her Amy for America logo in what she calls “Paul Wellstone” green — a nod to the late Minnesota senator's campaign bus.
In addition to the ads and the bus, the Klobuchar campaign said it has 50 staffers working in Iowa in 10 offices, with more planned.
At a campaign event last week in Des Moines, Janny Miller was one of the first Klobuchar supporters to show up. She said she likes Klobuchar’s tone and centrist approach.
“She’s my No. 1. I’m blue no matter who, but I find myself nodding and agreeing with everything she says," Miller said.
She especially supports Klobuchar’s opposition to abolishing private health insurance and forcing everyone onto Medicare.
“I think Democrats could lose it on that," Miller said.
Former Iowa Democratic Party Chairwoman Andy McGuire heads up Klobuchar’s Iowa campaign. She said Klobuchar "has taken off" in the state, even if she remains in fifth place in recent polls, with her support at 4 or 5 percent of voters.
"Look at this crowd here — I mean, she’s got an incredible momentum going with her," McGuire said. "The caucuses in Iowa — it’s always about work, organize, work, organize, meet everybody and get hot at the end — and that’s what she’s doing.”
Inside her bus in downtown Des Moines, relaxed and jubilant, Klobuchar said all of the work she’s been doing in Iowa is paying off.
“I really believe I have the strongest argument here when you look at those states we need to win — in Pennsylvania, in Michigan, and Ohio and Wisconsin and Iowa, not to mention Minnesota — those are the states, and who is the candidate that was up on the debate stage that has won in states just like that? It’s me.”
Goldford, the political science professor at Drake, said predicting next year’s caucus winners and losers now would be foolhardy, given the large field of candidates and the fluidity of the race. History’s on his side.
Goldford places Klobuchar at the top of the pile of the lower tier of candidates, positioned to leap ahead if there’s an opening.
As for Klobuchar’s self-described “surge," he said "surging is always relative" and used a weather analogy.
“I don’t have to tell the people of Minnesota that 20 degrees is better than 10 degrees — but 20 degrees is still just 20 degrees. It’s not 70 degrees," he said.
Klobuchar qualified for the November debate and said she’s well on her way to getting an invite to the December debate, too.
She also said all of the people who’ve endorsed her in Iowa and all of her staffers in Iowa can take over some of her campaign workload if she ends up stuck in Washington for a Senate trial on House articles of impeachment against Trump.