Who is Amy Klobuchar, what’s her story, and why is she so popular in Minnesota?
ST. PAUL -- Minnesota’s senior U.S. senator, 58-year-old Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat, is widely expected to announce Sunday, Feb. 10, that she’s running for president in 2020.
From a chilly stage on snow-covered Boom Island in Minneapolis to the national stage, she’s about to be Googled, talked about, loved and hated like never before.
Here’s your Klobuchar cheat sheet.
First, pronunciation: KLO-bush-AR.
That “ch” is pronounced like an “sh.” And in Minnesotan, the “bush” is really quick.
Just go with 'Amy'
Klobuchar doesn’t have any real nicknames.
“Klobo” sounds too robo, and how would you pronounce “Klob”?
In political circles in Minnesota, there’s only one Amy these days.
What's her story?
The name Klobuchar is Slovenian, and her grandfather worked in the mines on the Iron Range — a fact you can expect Klobuchar to note repeatedly in the coming days, months and … forever.
Her ties to the Iron Range are an important part of her narrative: The Mesabi Iron Range in the northeastern part of the state has long been a Democratic stronghold — a big part of the “L” in the DFL (Democratic-Farmer-Labor) Party — and carrying the Range is almost a mathematical must for any DFLer looking to win statewide office.
The other must-get in that equation is, of course, the Twin Cities metro. In other words, you gotta have some city-slicker chops and some suburban sensibilities. Fitting this narrative, Klobuchar is the daughter of well-liked and hard-drinking newspaper reporter Jim Klobuchar, who covered, among other things, Minnesota politics for the Star Tribune. Her mother, Rose, was a Camp Fire Girls leader and Minneapolis and Wayzata school teacher. Amy was valedictorian of Wayzata High School.
Why is she so popular?
Republicans would surely like to know.
Klobuchar’s popularity with voters is remarkable for a state where voters seem to prefer partisan balance, have been accused of being fickle and are known for close elections, even recounts.
Not so for Klobuchar. In 2006, she grabbed 58 percent of the vote, some 20 points ahead of the next competitor. She was re-elected in 2012 with 65 percent of the vote — 35 points ahead of the field. And in November, she was re-elected to a third term with 60 percent, a 24-point victory over the next guy. (Her opponents aren’t stiffs, but their names do seem to become the stuff of political trivia.)
In all those elections, she has outperformed everyone. She has outperformed Republican President Donald Trump in Trump strongholds and outperformed Democratic Gov. Tim Walz in his strongholds. In 2012, when her name appeared below Barack Obama’s on the ballot, she got more than 308,000 more votes than the sitting president.
There’s no question that a certain portion of Republicans regularly split their tickets and vote for Klobuchar.
Former Vice President Walter Mondale says Klobuchar’s secret sauce isn’t all that secret: “She knows how to get around,” Mondale, a mentor of Klobuchar’s, told the Pioneer Press.
He said when Klobuchar made her first Senate run and vowed to visit all of Minnesota’s 87 counties, he told her it wasn’t necessary. “I said, ‘You’re crazy,’ ” Too much effort for not enough numbers of voters, he said. But now Mondale believes that he underestimated how hard Klobuchar would work — and how well she could connect with Greater Minnesotans. “A lot of parts of Minnesota have never seen a U.S. senator,” Mondale said.
Klobuchar herself has said that there are some rural areas where she feels like she knows everyone in town — because they tell her they recognize her from the PTA or the neighborhood. The title of her autobiography, “The Senator Next Door,” is a play on that.
Is she liberal or moderate?
This will be the question that everyone tries to answer. Political odds-makers think Klobuchar’s best chances at winning the Democratic nomination reside in being seen as less-left than many of the candidates who have already announced. But you can expect Klobuchar will try to emphasize parts of her record that will pass any ideological purity tests.
The Republican National Committee is already trying to frame the question this way: “Which Amy will run for president?” The phrase was the subject line of an email blasted out Friday that attempts to cast Klobuchar as faking milquetoast to hide a far-left agenda: “Maybe Klobuchar will finally shed her carefully crafted facade of being the Midwestern moderate in favor of her D.C. persona – a senator who openly embraces the coastal values of party bosses Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi,” read the email from the RNC’s Minnesota office, which added that Klobuchar voted “with the likes of Elizabeth Warren 80 percent of the time.”
Regarding her purity, here are a few data points:
Her first elected post was Hennepin County attorney. In that capacity, she can be seen as tough on crime. Or, that she was part of an overzealous criminal justice system now widely acknowledged to have disproportionately locked up people of color. Yet, as the top prosecutor, Klobuchar was also a bit of a champion for the rights of the accused and holding police accountable; her office was among the first in the nation to embrace the videotaping of all police interrogations of murder suspects
She’s called for a vote on an assault weapons ban, among other gun control measures, but she’s been careful to not come off as an anti-gun know-it-all from the Cities. She has often couched the argument based on conversations she’s said she’s had with hunters: She wants the new gun laws that hunters want, she says. Regarding hunters: She likes to get them cheering, and she’s often spoken to groups of hunters. For several years when Minnesota allowed hunting and trapping of gray wolves, it was common for Klobuchar to suggest in such speeches that Minnesota should have a celebratory “wolf opener” on par with the Governor’s Deer Opener or Governor’s Pheasant Opener.
What's this about ther temperament?
Supporters and allies tout Klobuchar’s likeable nature. Some even said she was Minnesota’s funniest senator — no small accolade when she served alongside Al Franken.
She’s also known as a hard worker — to a fault at times. “Intense” is a frequent adjective staffers have used over the years. Things like late-night emails asking a staffer to double-check something buried deep in a bill — because she’s double-checking it herself right now, after midnight. And yes, a response is expected. Things like that have been talked about for years among political operatives. But none have given their name to criticism of a senator in her third term. Plus, there’s the question as to whether she’s being held to a different standard because, you know, she’s a she.
Politico has hinted at that angle in a few stories, like when it reported Klobuchar as atop “The ‘worst bosses’ in Congress?” list — note the question mark — based on staff turnover from 2001 to 2016. On Wednesday, the Huffington Post laid the issue freshly bare in a story premised on the notion that several possible Klobuchar 2020 campaign managers had been “scared off” from the gig based on her prior treatment of workers. And on Friday, BuzzFeed anonymously quoted several former staffers critical of her demeanor behind closed doors, while quoting several others by name singing her praise.
“Senator Klobuchar loves her staff — they are the reason she has gotten to where she is today,” according to part of a statement released by a campaign spokeswoman. “She has many staff who have been with her for years — including her Chief of Staff and her State Director, who have worked for her for 5 and 7 years respectively.”