Many witnesses can attest that I usually ask two questions of every Democrat I meet:
- Which candidate do you want to be the nominee of your party?
- Which candidate do you want to be the next president?
Due to electability concerns, I often get two different answers. I’m here to tell you there should be one for both, and that one is Amy Klobuchar.
While the media has alternated their obsession between the Big Four candidates (and the Big Billionaire), Amy Klobuchar has quietly racked up the most high-profile newspaper endorsements and the most endorsements from Iowa state legislators. Klobuchar’s used to not getting noticed. A 5′ 4″ woman in a tall man’s world, she’s had to work hard to get to where she is. In her rise to become a three-term U.S. Senator, she has never lost an election. Did you know she passed more laws in the 115th Congress than any other senator? You probably didn’t. After all, that’s not as exciting as an incendiary tweet, a promise to pay off everyone’s tuition, or an offer to give every adult a thousand dollars a month in perpetuity. It’s just someone rolling up their sleeves and getting the job done.
That’s Klobuchar for you. Pragmatic. Results oriented. In the background, getting stuff done. She’s the mom that makes everyone’s lunch, trucks around all the kids, and literally cleans up everyone else’s mess, only to later stand behind what society would call the head of the household. You’ve met her before, this unsung hero, only you didn’t remember. Heroes come in many shapes and sizes. Klobuchar is one of them.
If Democrats want to win, they should nominate her. New Hampshire’s Union Leader writes, “Trump doesn’t want to face her. He is hoping for Bernie, Biden, Buttigieg or Warren. Each has weaknesses, whether of age, inexperience or a far-left agenda that thrills some liberals but is ripe for exploitation in a mainstream general election.
“Sen. Klobuchar has none of those weaknesses.”
Indeed, unlike those four and Bloomberg, Klobuchar (59) is in a prime presidential age. Unlike most of the rest, she has big time political experience, serving a statewide constituency in matters of domestic and foreign policy. And quite unlike two of the leading candidates, she does not have a record ready to be hammer and sickled to death by traditional and social media advertising. I agree with the Union Leader; Trump is eager to weaponize Sanders and Warren’s tax proposals, left-leaning ideology, and fiery rhetoric.
If that reads too much like the process of eliminating the weakest candidates in a weak field, let me more affirmatively state Klobuchar’s case. The Union Leader notes, “Her work in Washington has led to the passage of an impressive number of substantive bills, even as the partisan divide has deepened.” PPFA readers know my unease with the slow death of the partisan moderate and the rise of negative partisanship. You, too, have likely grown frustrated with the rise in partisan bickering and the end of bipartisan negotiation and agreement to get work done for the American people.
It appears to me many of these candidates will only exacerbate those problems. Klobuchar’s resume says otherwise. She boasts of her ability to find common ground to pass legislation. Though she brandishes a long list of advancing Democratic causes, she is renowned for working with Republican lawmakers to actually get things done, and she’s so effective at it that normally combative Republican senators gush over her good humor, likability, and ability to bring members of both parties together. These are valuable tools for our next chief executive.
How does she do it? She starts by not making Republicans feel stupid, a skill far too many Democrats sadly do not mirror. She certainly is as big a critic of the President as any candidate, but her beef is with him, not his voters. She respects voters beyond the Democratic base, extending well into rural areas. Indeed, this month’s David Binder Iowa poll on behalf of Focus on Rural America speaks to that strength. Though it’s top-line polling results showed the Big Four out in front, the survey also asked Iowa Democrats, “Which candidate is best for the needs and interests of rural Iowa?” Klobuchar was far ahead at 29%, doubling Warren, Sanders, Biden and Buttigieg, who were knotted between 15 and 13.
Evidence that she reached out to all voters is reflected in the fact that she’s the most electorally successful senator of any battleground state. Every other candidate either won in comfortably blue states (Biden, Sanders, Warren, Bennet, Patrick), blue districts (Delaney, Gabbard), a blue city (Bloomberg, Buttigieg), on Barack Obama’s coattails (Biden again), or hasn’t won at all (Steyer, Yang). Klobuchar wins in Hillary Clinton’s purplest state (a 1.5-point margin in 2016) by 20+ points every time, including winning in urban, suburban, and rural areas. She won 42 counties Trump had won two years earlier, and for the third time she carried all of the state’s eight Congressional districts — including Republican held ones, like the district that sent arch-conservative Michelle Bachmann to the House.
Democrats should nominate someone that could take advantage of the President’s weaknesses. I don’t thinking sending out a fellow near-octogenarian male is the right call. The 2020 battle will likely be decided by the swingable suburbs, particularly swingable moderate suburban women. What better candidate than one of their own? In the 2018 midterms, women again made up about 6 in 10 Democratic voters, and most analysts believe the Democratic Party had women to thank for the party’s takeover of the House of Representatives. Women made up a majority of the 2018 midterm electorate, and they voted for Democrats by 19 points over Republicans, while men tipped 4 points in favor of the GOP. Klobuchar, the diminutive and sassy Midwestern mother, has the ability to re-mobilize this group in record numbers.
There’s also a lot of data that suggests moderates are better general election candidates. Ideologically speaking, Democrats’ 2018 success stemmed from moderate candidates re-taking Republican-held seats, while progressive candidates running for competitive seats struggled. Candidate Hillary Clinton, often used as the moderate foil to left-leaning voters who said that approach didn’t work, was actually perceived as the more ideological candidate in the last election; a majority of voters saw Trump as the more moderate choice.
The Left thinks “rallying the base” is a better strategy for this election than persuading the middle ground. They point to Trump’s electoral success as evidence why. I disagree. It’s important to note that the President’s rural base gives him his Electoral College advantage, which has aided the rural takeover of Washington. The Democrats’ base is found disproportionately in cities and dark blue states. Democratic base turnout may well climb in those places, propping up general election polling in the meantime, but their electoral total will not. A “base strategy” is the smart play for the President, which is why he deploys it. The Democratic Party must deal with reality and persuade the persuadable, particularly in the upper Midwest — precisely the area from which Klobuchar hails.
No candidate approaches Klobuchar’s electoral success with a purple constituency. They all claim they do, or project they will, but none of them have actually proven it. Klobuchar has.
And I promise you: Democrats will want someone with electoral success. Once through impeachment, the President will gain strength. When it comes to final voting decisions, the economy, as usual, will be determinative. Some Democrats want to convince the American people the economy is a disaster, but the people are generally with Trump on this one; we have incredibly low unemployment, a stock market that keeps hitting record highs, and nearly unprecedented consumer and business confidence. Concerned for their financial future, it’s unlikely current undecided voters, even those who don’t like Trump personally, will vote against him if it means socialism or some drastic economic change. Quite unlike some candidates with their big ticket proposals, Klobuchar seems to be the only Democrat talking about reducing the mounting national debt. A candidate like Klobuchar gives independents and Trump-sick Republicans an off ramp; they can get rid of the awful person in the White House while still voting for stability in the job market and their portfolio.
Progressives, of course, will not take kindly to my proposal. Klobuchar has been one of several campaigns driving in the “moderate” lane. Indeed, words like “moderate,” “pragmatic,” “realistic,” and “bipartisan” have become anathema in progressive circles, as if one can’t be both pragmatic and inspiring.
But don’t tell that to Iowa’s Quad City Times. It backed Bernie Sanders in 2016, but now it endorses Amy Klobuchar. It applauds Klobuchar’s “progressive realism,” compliments not only her record, but her laudable, idea-laden presidential agenda as well. It surmises that the main reason Klobuchar is called insufficiently progressive is because of just how left the progressive wing of the party has turned.
I think it reasonable that Klobuchar should be the candidate that the far left and the center agree upon. She ranks as the 28th most liberal senator across senators’ lifetime of votes, pretty much at the middle of the Democratic Party. The far left wants the entire party to rally around Warren or Sanders, who both rank near the top of that list, which is about as realistic an expectation as asking the Left to rally around West Virginia centrist Democrat Joe Manchin, whose ranks near the bottom of the party. It’s an unfair ask either way. Klobuchar splits the difference and yet again makes the logical choice.
Though she makes the best nominee, one might also wonder if she’d make the best president. For all of the above reasons, the answer is again yes.
For the next president to move forward an agenda, they need to assemble a coalition. No Democratic candidate seems better equipped to do that than Amy Klobuchar. A Klobuchar nomination means a Midwesterner is traveling to what was once flyover country to talk their language. That leads to more Midwestern support that helps make unexpected gains in new Congressional and even some Senate seats.
No one in this 2020 field has shown a better ability in the last decade or so to build consensus and pass legislation. A President Klobuchar could make appeals to the Midwest in areas like climate change, where her background can help make inroads in traditionally un-Democratic areas. She can connect with them better than the northeast candidates can, which, counterintuitively, actually puts her in better position to make progress on climate change legislation than candidates to her left.
Any number of issues could be better tackled if the heartland feels more included by the Democratic Party. I have little doubt the race’s most progressive candidates can rally the coasts to their agenda, but can they rally a majority in the Senate, to say nothing of a filibuster-proof 60 votes? I just don’t see it. Certainly not in modern politics, where Republican lawmakers would be eager to apply the political equivalent of Newton’s Third Law if Democrats over-correct after President Trump.
Therefore, my answer to both #1 and #2 is Amy Klobuchar — the best candidate of this Democratic slate, both for the nomination and the presidency. Her name recognition among Americans is relatively low, so I wouldn’t worry about any low general election head-to-heads. The story and policy proposals of this 5′ 4″ granddaughter of a coal-miner turned Senate deal-maker and presidential nominee should be an inspiring one, even to those who demand immediate revolution. I believe she’d grow to be well-liked and popular were she to become the Democratic finalist.
To some, she’ll even be a hero.
17 thoughts on “PPFA Endorsement: Klobuchar Would Make the Best Nominee (and the Best President)”
This is really interesting. After having class with you 46 times, I figured that you would be endorsing someone moderate. However, I thought that you were going to say Biden or Bloomberg. I’m surprised and excited to watch Klobuchar climb, and I’m hoping that she wins.
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Make sure you send the post to her!
[…] switch over to her. As she strengthens, all of a sudden Democrats start to realize they have a tremendous candidate in Amy […]
“just how left the progressive wing of the party has turned.”
For example, left at all. In what ways has the democrat party even dipped it’s toes into the left for 4 decades plus? I don’t think it is all that extreme. It is a reset though, and our window has been jerked so out of frame, that people think liberals are leftist.
Having said this, I appreciate what you have said aside from that and will read more about her. For example I would like to know what these laws are that she has passed. I also wish it didn’t feel like when people talk about gaining women’s votes – as you have here – they mean white middle class women.
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