Early Iowa numbers suggest a tough road ahead for Klobuchar

Amy Klobuchar talks in front of press microphones
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar talks with the press while campaigning in New Hampshire Tuesday. Klobuchar has shifted her campaign to New Hampshire, even as Democrats in Iowa struggle to compile the results of Monday night’s caucuses.
Mark Zdechlik | MPR News

Updated: 6:11 p.m.

If the numbers hold true once everything's counted, Amy Klobuchar does not move on to New Hampshire in the top tier of candidates.

"No one gets momentum out of a fifth-place finish in Iowa,” said Dante Scale, a political science professor at the University of New Hampshire. He said Klobuchar's apparent poor showing in Iowa could be the end of her presidential campaign.

"Amy Klobuchar needs to be the story coming out of Iowa, and if these results hold, then Pete Buttigieg will be the story. Bernie Sanders will be the story coming out of Iowa,” he said. “Amy Klobuchar will be an afterthought, and to go from being an afterthought to make a serious play in New Hampshire is awfully, awfully difficult."

Klobuchar's campaign manager suggested people should wait until all the Iowa votes are counted to make a judgment about her finish.

Earlier in the day, before the partial Iowa results were released, Klobuchar spoke optimistically about her prospects in New Hampshire. After an appearance in Concord, she suggested the state is particularly suited to her brand of politics.

“New Hampshire, like Minnesota, has a history of independent voters that turn out, and I think that’s what you’re going to see here in the New Hampshire primary,” she said. “And I tend to bring people with me when I’m up for office, and those voters plus our fired-up Democratic base put me in a better position.”

Klobuchar held a trio of events in New Hampshire Tuesday. In Concord she ripped President Trump, calling his presidency both “hilarious” and “sad.” She also took general aim at fellow Democratic presidential candidates who want to eliminate private health insurance in favor of a “Medicare for all” program. Klobuchar supports allowing people to buy into a government health care plan if they choose to.

The difference between a plan and a pipe dream, she said, “is that you can actually get a plan done and pay for it. You can actually make a difference in people’s lives.”

A woman in the audience, Mary Fortier, said the vote in Iowa will not sway her. "It doesn't affect my decision,” she said. She plans to vote for Klobuchar in next week’s primary.

“I like her practicality,” she said. “She has a history of getting things done. She’ not making promises that she can’t keep and she’ll work across the aisle to get things done.”

Fortier said she worries Democrats will lose the general election in November if they nominate a far-left candidate like Bernie Sanders, who has a lot of support in New Hampshire.

If Klobuchar survives next week's primary, the campaign will only get tougher. It moves to Nevada and South Carolina, where the voters are much more racially diverse than in Iowa or New Hampshire. Klobuchar has yet to prove she can appeal to minority voters.

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