Amy Klobuchar’s Big Mo

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Amy Klobuchar has long been a favorite of the political class and the pundits, and it’s easy to see why. Back in November 2018, a few months before she launched her campaign, the New York Times said “her presence in a jam-packed field of potential contenders raises a core question about what kind of candidate can beat Mr. Trump”:

At a moment when confrontational progressives such as Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are captivating the party’s imagination and tapping into its anger, do Democrats need a firebrand Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders type who can whip up the liberal left and match Mr. Trump’s pugnacity? Or do they need a calm, reasoned, reliable (but not flashy) Democrat from the American heartland to provide a stark contrast to the president — in short, Amy Klobuchar?

Ever since she’s been the subject of generally favorable coverage and over the past six weeks it’s periodically been predicted that she was on the verge of a breakthrough in the race for the Democratic nomination.

“Riding a post-debate wave of attention, Ms. Klobuchar blitzed New Hampshire and Iowa last week, attracting new supporters and donors in those two states with early nominating contests,” RealClearPolitics reported on October 21. “After months stuck in the polling doldrums, Ms. Klobuchar is getting a second look. ” This surge was attributed to Klobuchar having attacked Elizabeth Warren’s plan for universal health care as a “pipe dream” during the debate.

A week later, RCP was back, asking, Is Klobuchar the Heartland Moderate Democrats Need?” It said she was drawing crowds in New Hampshire and her fundraising and media coverage had surged. Evidence for her new strength was piece in The Economist, “Amy Klobuchar for sanity,” which “urges Democrats to give the senator ‘a look’ and “portrays her as an exemplar of Midwest pragmatism who could become a moderate alternative to Joe Biden.”

On November 4, Minnesota Public Radio ran a story that acknowledged Klobuchar still was not one of the favorites but observers believed she was “well-positioned to capitalize if any of the front-runners trip up.” It quoted Drake University political science professor Dennis Goldford saying, “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.” 

Soon, for reasons I can no longer remember, Pete Buttigieg became the great moderate hope, but Klobuchar has kept getting good press. The AP said she was “slowly but steadily gaining momentum” in a story in late November and just yesterday the Chicago Tribune also reported that she was “quietly gaining momentum in the race for president,” especially with Kamala Harris dropping out.

The alleged enthusiasm for Klobochar didn’t come across in the lede:

With the smell of manure hanging outside in the cold air, Amy Klobuchar walked into Timbukbrü, a bar so remote that its slogan reads, “Welcome to the other middle of nowhere.”

After greeting the 20 local Democrats waiting inside, the Minnesota senator started sipping a beer, cracking open peanut shells and ticking through several top issues in her campaign for president. After explaining she favored improving Obamacare over passing “Medicare For All,” McKinley Bailey nodded in approval.

“That’s why you’re in my top three,” Bailey, a 39-year-old former Iowa lawmaker, told the senator.

So where does Klobuchar stand at this point? She’s got 2.4 percent support nationally, 5.3 percent in Iowa, which is supposed to be one of her strongest states, 3 percent in New Hampshire, 1.8 percent in South Carolina and 1.3 percent in California.

But bland centrist Democrats are what the media prefer so look for more of the same as long as Klobuchar manages to stay in the campaign. “Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar has been crowned by mainstream pundits as a Highly Electable Candidate,” said a story in Jacobin today. “There’s only one problem — people hate her platform and no one wants to vote for her.”

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