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In New Hampshire, Klobuchar presses electability pitch

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Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., right, mingles with attendees of College Convention 2020, a quadrennial gathering of politically engaged students and educators on Tuesday in Manchester, N.H.
Elise Amendola | AP

Al Cantor lives in a house of loving division.

“My wife and I are strong Democrats but she’s choosing Elizabeth Warren and I’m with Amy Klobuchar,” he said.

The Cantors wear their politics on more than just their sleeves. Klobuchar and Warren campaign signs compete for attention along the boulevard outside their home in Concord, N.H.

Cantor, who consults for nonprofits, recently declared his support for Klobuchar after a rigorous review of the large field of Democratic presidential contenders.

“I meet all the candidates, and sometimes I meet them several times,” he said.

Al Cantor stands alongside Democratic presidential candidate signs
Al Cantor stands alongside the Democratic presidential candidate campaign signs outside his home in Concord, N.H. He's supporting Sen. Amy Klobuchar because he thinks she most electable; his wife is supporting Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Mark Zdechlik | MPR News

Cantor believes the front-runner and leading moderate, former Vice President Joe Biden, is not up to a presidential campaign.

“I think that Joe Biden has lost a step intellectually,” said Cantor, who saw Biden in person and remembers the former vice president losing his way in a conversation.

“I think he’s been handled very cautiously in New Hampshire,” Cantor said. “He has not been exposed to the public very much and I think that’s very conscious.”

Cantor said he’s backing Klobuchar because he thinks she has the best chance against President Trump in November’s general election.

“I want to choose a candidate who will win and win strongly and convincingly and, I hope, bring the Senate along,” he said. “At which point you could start arguing about Medicare for All, or Medicare for most, or whatever.”

Twenty minutes down the road, in Manchester, N.H., Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar delivered yet another campaign speech. This time, she was trying to woo a convention of college students from a dozen states.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., is surrounded after speaking at College Convention 2020, a quadrennial gathering of politically engaged students and educators Tuesday in Manchester, N.H.
Elise Amendola | AP

“I’ve literally won every race down to fourth grade, where my slogan, that I’ve since abandoned, was ‘All the Way with Amy K,’” Klobuchar said.

As usual when she works voters for support, Klobuchar hammered Trump and insisted she’s the best candidate for Democrats to put up against him.

“Three U.S. Senate races in a state that Donald Trump almost won, in every rural area — the most conservative congressional districts, I’ve won them,” Klobuchar said.

Klobuchar frequently talks about Democrats needing to bring more people into their party — and not just independents, but also Republicans who are fed up with the GOP and Trump. She said she wants to be president for all of America, not half the country.

Sara Sabbagh, 22, of Mississippi
Sara Sabbagh, 22, of Mississippi, says she buys the "electability" agrument of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar. Sabbagh was attending College Convention 2020, a quadrennial gathering of politically-engaged students and educators.
Mark Zdechlik | MPR News

On this day, she won over 22-year-old Sara Sabbagh of Mississippi.

“Because there’s no way you’re going to rally enough people if you’re going in too strong left, and I think Amy kind of fits the bill with that,” said Sabbagh.

Klobuchar’s New Hampshire state director, Scott Merrick, said that angle could play well in the Granite State. He said Klobuchar’s New Hampshire operation is focused on the Democratic base, of course, but it doesn’t stop there.

“Folks have to understand that in the New Hampshire primary, undeclared — or commonly referred to as independent — voters also can pull a Democratic ballot, so that’s probably going to be 40 percent or more of the electorate in this primary,” said Merrick. “So, we’re focusing of course, as well, on those undeclared voters.”

Back in Concord, Al Cantor also said he buys Klobuchar’s argument that she stands to pick up support from independents. He expects a flood of them, and some Republicans, to vote in New Hampshire’s Democratic primary.

“A couple of the fellows I hang out with … they were registered as independents and are in fact choosing to vote for Amy Klobuchar,” said Cantor.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar speaks with reporters at College Convention 2020.
Mark Zdechlik | MPR News

But University of New Hampshire political science professor Dante Scala said Klobuchar’s fortunes in his state will not rest with independents and moderate Republicans. Scala said to convince New Hampshire voters she’s viable, Klobuchar needs to beat the other moderates in Iowa, like Biden and former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

“Her best shot is winning Iowa, proving that Joe Biden is actually yesterday’s news and that Pete Buttigieg was a flash in the pan,” Scala said. “And then all of these moderate, somewhat liberal Democrats who don’t want Bernie Sanders to be their nominee are looking for somewhere to go, and they find Klobuchar to be a safe harbor.”

Klobuchar remained in fifth place with 6 percent support of Iowa caucus-goers in a Des Moines Register-CNN poll released Friday — that’s unchanged since the same poll in November.

Iowa’s caucuses take place Feb. 3. New Hampshire holds its primary the following week.