As snow fell on the crowd at a rally at Boom Island Park in Minneapolis on Sunday, Sen. Amy Klobuchar announced that she will enter the Democratic race for 2020.
Klobuchar became the first woman from Minnesota elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006 and joins four other women — Sen. Kamala Harris of California, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts — in the Democratic primary field.
“Today, on an island in the middle of the mighty Mississippi, in our nation’s heartland, at a time when we must heal the heart of our democracy and renew our commitment to the common good, I stand before you as the granddaughter of an iron-ore miner, as the daughter of a teacher and a newspaperman, as the first woman elected to the United States Senate from the state of Minnesota, to announce my candidacy for president of the United States,” Klobuchar said.
“I am running for every American,” she said. “I am running for you. I promise you this as your president: I will look you in the eye. I will tell you what I think. I will focus on getting things done. That’s what I’ve done my whole life. And no matter what, I’ll lead from the heart.”
The announcement, made as snow pelted the bareheaded candidate and obscured views from the Mississippi River island, reinforced Klobuchar’s self-positioning as a hardy Midwesterner accustomed to pushing through obstacles.
Klobuchar took pains to portray herself as someone who, with experience at the local and federal levels, would bring competence to the White House, contrasting that with the current environment of chaos and shutdowns in Washington.
“My friends, that sense of community is fracturing across our nation right now, worn down by the petty and vicious nature of our politics,” she said. “We are tired of the shutdowns and the showdowns, of the gridlock and the grandstanding. Today, on this snowy day, on this island, we say enough is enough. Our nation must be governed not from chaos, but from opportunity. Not by wallowing over what’s wrong, but by marching inexorably toward what’s right. And it has to start with all of us.”
A 58-year-old two-term senator and former prosecutor, Klobuchar has spent much of her career attempting to be a bipartisan bridge-builder, willing to go on both Fox News and MSNBC.
At a time when the Democratic Party is debating whether to hew further left or maintain some centrist appeal, she is likely to attempt to cast herself as a little bit of both. She has deep Midwestern roots, and can point to election victories that illustrate an ability to win in liberal urban areas and conservative rural ones.
Klobuchar was easily reelected in 2012 and 2018, carrying conservative areas of the state that Trump won in 2016.
Coming from a state that neighbors Iowa, she could decide to make the caucuses a centerpiece of her strategy. She has visited Iowa many times, speaking at Democratic dinners and campaigning with candidates during the 2018 elections.
“It is great to be back here,” Klobuchar said when she spoke at the Iowa Farmers Union in December. “As I’ve said many times, I can see Iowa from my porch.”
But she is relatively untested when it comes to raising the kind of money needed for a campaign, as well as appealing to minorities and winning over liberals. She has not come out in favor of Medicare-for-all, for example, or pushed to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement — two positions favored by some on the left. She has voted with Trump’s position nearly a third of the time, which is far more often than other Democratic senators running for president or considering the campaign, according to a tally maintained by FiveThirtyEight.
She also has earned a reputation for being a tough boss. She has the third-highest turnover rate in the Senate, with an annual turnover rate of 35 percent, according to data from 2001 to 2017 collected by LegiStorm, a nonpartisan congressional research company.
Klobuchar was born and raised in Minnesota. Her mother was a second-grade teacher and her father was a sportswriter and columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Her father was an alcoholic, which put strains on the family that she recounted in her 2015 memoir “The Senator Next Door: A Memoir from the Heartland.” Klobuchar wrote of blowing out birthday candles or waiting on him to come home so they could open presents on Christmas morning. In her early teenage years, after they went to a bar following a football game, her father drove their car into a ditch.
“I was scared,” she wrote. “He told me he was sorry and that he would never do it again. I remember he cried.”
She discussed her family history when she questioned Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh in his hearing before the Senate, asking him if he had ever blacked out after drinking alcohol.
“I don’t know. Have you?” he shot back, in an exchange that drew widespread attention and for which he later apologized.
The exchange was parodied on “Saturday Night Live.”
“OK [Rachel Dratch], you played a good me on @nbcsnl tonight,” Klobuchar wrote on Twitter “You were so good that you even got my daughter to text me on a Saturday night (a first).”
Klobuchar was the valedictorian of her public high school, and then earned a degree in political science from Yale University while spending a summer working as a construction worker, pounding stakes into the ground for the Minnesota Highway Department. She earned a law degree from the University of Chicago, and in 1998 was elected as attorney of Hennepin County, which is Minnesota’s most populous.