As Iowans near a decision, Klobuchar is ‘right there’

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar in Iowa.
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., speaks at a campaign stop at Jethro's BBQ Steak n' Chop on Sunday in Ames, Iowa.
Andrew Harnik | AP Photo

As Monday's Iowa caucuses draw near, the crowds for Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s events are getting bigger and some voters say they are moving from undecided or dumping other presidential contenders to support her.

At a stop in Ames, Iowa, on Sunday hundreds of people packed a banquet room to see Klobuchar.

One of them was Jean Boot, 70, of Ames who said Klobuchar’s last two debate performances convinced her to jump ship from another candidate who’s been drawing large crowds for months and raising a lot more money than Klobuchar.

A woman with an Amy sticker stands in front of a small crowd
Jean Boot said she was impressed by Klobuchar’s last two debate performances.
Mark Zdechlik | MPR News

“I supported Pete Buttigieg first.”

But Boot concluded the former South Bend, Ind., mayor does not bring as much to the table as Klobuchar with her background as a three-term U.S. senator and former county prosecutor.

“Amy has that experience of working across the aisle, working with others, not just the Democrats to get things done,” Boot said. “And she’s a woman and I think that plays a big part in it, too.”

“I switched because of Elizabeth’s health policy,” said Fay Gish Hill, 75, of Ames, referring to Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren who, like Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, supports abolishing private health insurance and replacing it with a government-run “Medicare for All” plan.

“I feel as though it’s going to be too radical for the Midwest,” Hill said.

Hill said if her fellow Democrats choose a candidate who supports “Medicare for All,” President Trump will have an easier path to reelection.

A woman stands in front of a crowd in a restaurant.
Fay Gish Hill said she recently dropped her support for Warren in favor of Klobuchar.
Mark Zdechlik | MPR News

“We have to take the Midwest. I feel as if the coasts are sewed up, the south is hopeless,” she said.

“But we have to have the Midwest.”

Klobuchar boasts more endorsements from current and former Iowa lawmakers than any of the other Democratic presidential candidates. Just days ago, state Rep. Ross Wilburn became one of the latest to back her after initially supporting California Sen. Kamala Harris.

Wilburn said all of the major candidates have been courting him since Harris dropped out. He said the path to Klobuchar was a fairly straight one. He likes her executive and legislative experience and her ability to win where Trump did well in 2016.

“More and more Iowans are paying attention to her. People are trying to make up their minds,” Wilburn said. “They’ve got it narrowed down to two or three candidates and everyone I talk to she’s right there with them, which is exactly the position you want to be in.”

A RealClearPolitics compilation of Iowa polls shows Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden in a statistical dead heat for the lead in Iowa. Klobuchar polls in fifth place behind Warren and Buttigieg. For months, Biden had a commanding lead, but he's lost ground.

Joleen Huguenin, 69, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, had been a Biden supporter but thinks it’s time to elect a woman, and she thinks that Klobuchar can win a general election.

“I like her moderate stance on things. I find talk of many of the candidates of Medicare for all and free college concerning. I like her Midwest values,” Huguenin said. “I think she’s going to understand the farmers better than other candidates.”

Klobuchar needs to place in the top three for her campaign to claim victory in Iowa, Huguenin said.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar in Iowa.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar speaks at a campaign stop at Jethro's BBQ Steak n' Chop on Sunday.
Andrew Harnik | AP Photo

On the way to Des Moines, Iowa, aboard her green campaign bus this week, Klobuchar said no matter what happens in Iowa, her campaign will continue.

“I will go to New Hampshire for certain and beyond,” she said.

Your support matters.

You make MPR News possible. Individual donations are behind the clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives. Help ensure MPR remains a resource that brings Minnesotans together.