Amy Klobuchar 2020?

Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar is reportedly considering a bid for the Democratic Presidential Nomination in 2020.

Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, who was recently re-elected to a third term in office, is telling reporters that she isn’t ruling out the possibility of running for President in two years,but it isn’t clear that her brand of politics is what the Democrats will be looking for in a candidate to take on the President:

The speculation began the moment Senator Amy Klobuchar walked into the room.

“You’re looking at a future president,” whispered Jacob Forman, a Carleton College senior, elbowing a friend as Ms. Klobuchar strode into a campus hall this month to rally a crowd of fired-up Democrats. Frank Wergin, a construction company owner, looked on admiringly: “That’s our 2020 presidential candidate.”

Three days later, Ms. Klobuchar coasted to a third Senate term, clobbering her Republican opponent with 60 percent of the vote in a state that President Trump nearly won in 2016. Now Minnesota’s most popular politician is weighing whether her home state appeal — forged through carefully cultivated bipartisanship in Washington and an aw-shucks-I’m-just-like-you persona — will translate on a national stage.

As Democrats look ahead to 2020, Ms. Klobuchar’s 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?

“My fear for the Democratic Party is that people are going to see who can be the most virulent, anti-Trump person — and that is his game; his game is to be angry and snide,” said David Axelrod, a former senior adviser to President Barack Obama. “I think people are exhausted. I think people want to believe that we can be better than that.”

Officially, Ms. Klobuchar’s position on a White House run is that she is not commenting until she talks to her family. But she does not rule it out and has already visited the early voting state of Iowa this year. Nor does she shy away from talking about how Democrats should behave in the era of @realDonaldTrump.

“I don’t agree with, ‘When they go low, we go low,’ but I do agree that when they go low, we have to respond,” Ms. Klobuchar said, referring to the intraparty debate over Michelle Obama’s 2016 mantra: “When they go low, we go high.”

“But,” she went on, “responding doesn’t mean just going down a rabbit hole everywhere Donald Trump goes. It means doing a response but continuing to push your own agenda. I don’t think we want to use those same tactics and tweet caustic comments every morning.”

In the Senate, Ms. Klobuchar is not in the forefront on divisive issues like immigration, but she has led efforts to curb the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs, expand voting rights, address sexual harassment and protect online privacy after revelations of Facebook’s data mining.

Early in her tenure, she carved out a niche in consumer protection, shepherding passage of bipartisan bills to ban lead in toys and improve swimming pool safety after several highly publicized child deaths, measures that Gregg Peppin, a Republican strategist here, said have earned Ms. Klobuchar a derisive nickname: “The Senator of Small Things.”

“It’s issues that are kind of no-brainers, and when it comes to substantive things, she’s really not there,” Mr. Peppin said, adding that Republicans have a second nickname for her: “Cotton Candy Amy, because there’s no nutritional value; you put it in your mouth and it melts away and there’s nothing really there.”

Ms. Klobuchar has heard the “small things” criticism, and resents it.

“Not for a minute do I view these as small things,” she said sharply. “They’re big things for the people whose kids’ lives were saved.”

While being from Minnesota has meant that, at least until recently, Klobuchar has gone relatively unnoticed outside of Washington and Minnesota itself. In no small part that has been because she has not followed the practice of many of her fellow Senators of being sure to show up frequently in the national news or making herself available as a talking head for the cable networks outside of the context of legislation she has supported or issues dealing with her home state. That is likely to change now that she has far more tenure than she used to, though, and it changed most significantly in the wake of the fight over the Brett Kavanaugh nomination, particular during the hearing in late September regarding the charges made against him by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and other women. During that hearing, Klobuchar, who had previously served as the chief prosecutor for Minnesota’s largest county, pressed Kavanaugh on several avenues of inquiry, including his drinking habits and the question of whether or not he had blacked out while drinking. Kavanaugh responded by asking the Senator if she had and she responded testify”I have no drinking problem, Judge.” That exchange quickly went viral and was part of the Saturday Night Live parody of the hearing. Most importantly, though, it helped to raise her national profile and has been the main reason for much of the 2020 speculation that has sprouted up around her.

Back home in Minnesota, Klobuchar has been fairly popular. In 2006, for example, she easily won the nomination of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party and went on to an easy win in the General Election that November to replace Senator Mark Dayton. Six years later, she was again easily re-elected with a wider margin of victory than Barack Obama received in the state. Finally, just this month, she was again re-elected by a wide margin notwithstanding the fact that Donald Trump had come within two percentage points of winning the state in 2016. Given all of that, it’s understandable that Klobuchar would be on the short-list for the 2020 nomination, especially since there will be significant pressure on Democrats to once again give their top slot to a female candidate, especially in the wake of the Clinton loss in the 2016 election, the rise of the MeToo movement, and the success of female candidates and role of female voters in the 2018 midterms. Additionally, Democrats would be smart to look at candidates from the Midwest who can attract the voters that had supported Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 and then ended up switching to Donald Trump in 2016. It’s not clear that Klobuchar is that candidate, but she seems to have a lot of what Democrats might be looking for in 2020 if they actually want to beat Donald Trump.

FILED UNDER: 2020 Election, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Neil Hudelson says:

    FWIW, among all the names floated as potential candidates, Klobuchar is this Bernie-backing, heartland-living, firebrand progressive’s first* choice.

    *Ok, “first” but only because Pete Buttigieg hasn’t really been talked about yet.

  2. MarkedMan says:

    FWIW, my opinion is that a successful presidential candidate of any party must
    a) Really want to run (so strike people like Mario Cuomo and, I suspect, Joe Biden)
    b) Can organize a campaign (Fund raising is a good first step in that)
    c) Has the stamina to keep it up
    d) Can catch the attention of the people and press.

    Not so coincidentally, a primary race is a great chance to demonstrate all of the above. So while these discussions are interesting, I’ll wait until I see whether they enter the primaries and how successful they are before passing any judgement on anyone. Possible exceptions are Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Mitt Romney, John Kerry and anyone else that has already been involved in a run and have proven capable (or incapable) of following through to the nomination.

  3. Moosebreath says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    “FWIW, among all the names floated as potential candidates, Klobuchar is this Bernie-backing, heartland-living, firebrand progressive’s first* choice.”

    FWIW, Klobuchar is also very high on the list of this Hillary-backing, ACELA corridor-living progressive.

  4. al Ameda says:

    Amy, I thought, was very impressive in the Judiciary Committee’s Kavanaugh Hearings. I think she should be seriously considered, and I hope she is considering a run.

    Cory Booker on the other hand, I thought performed poorly during the Kavanaugh Hearings, he came off as an extreme lightweight.

  5. Teve says:

    She’s smart, highly educated, well mannered, progressive, likeable, and good-looking. She’ll be a shoo-in even before Trump has a stroke, which I think the Mueller investigation may actually literally produce.

  6. Pylon says:

    “Small things” seems to equal “things we Republicans don’t want to do, but would look really bad in opposing”.

    Expanding voting rights, and dealing with prescription drug costs seem pretty large, anyway.

  7. Todd says:


    a) Really want to run (so strike people like Mario Cuomo and, I suspect, Joe Biden)
    b) Can organize a campaign (Fund raising is a good first step in that)
    c) Has the stamina to keep it up
    d) Can catch the attention of the people and press.

    Of this list, the only one where I would have questions about Klobuchar would be “d” … which is actually the most important one (IMO).

    If we learned nothing else from Gore, Kerry and Clinton, it’s that a well qualified Democratic nominee devoid of charisma will have a very hard time actually winning the Presidency. Republicans and the media will work hard to define a Democratic nominee in unfavorable terms, and if they don’t have the ability to connect with and inspire the people, that framing will likely be pretty effective … whether it’s true or not.

    It will be interesting to see how the 202o primary plays out. Despite my reservations, we (Democrats) could do much worse than having Klobuchar emerge as the nominee. However, if Democrats nominate (or even seriously consider) Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, or Michael Avenatti, the GOP will have a decent chance of keeping the White House (regardless of who they nominate). The same may hold true (but to a lesser extent) if Dems nominate Warren or Biden (who are both one election cycle too late).

    At this very early point, I think the most likely Democratic nominee will be Harris, Booker or Beto … unless someone manages to change Oprah’s mind. 😉

  8. Todd says:

    p.s. in reference to my last sentence above: if I was forced to bet my own money today on who will be sworn in as the 46th President on January 20th 2021, I would say it will most likely be Beto O’Rourke.

  9. James Pearce says:

    Shockingly, I’m against all Dem Senators considering a run. The Dem Senate lost seats in the last election. It’s our legislative body, a co-equal branch of government. It’s not our finishing school.

    I also do not think “performed admirably at the Kavanaugh hearings” is a selling point that will appeal to swing voters and independents. “Not involved in the Kavanaugh hearings at all” would probably be an easier sell.

  10. Dave Schuler says:

    Think Democratic governors not senators. A good, popular Democratic governor is almost certain to make a better candidate than any senator.

    As to potential 2020 candidates, Doug could probably save a lot of time by listing the Democratic senators who aren’t considering throwing their hats into the ring. Nowadays senators seem to look at themselves as presidents-in-waiting.

  11. John Peabody says:

    Growing up in Minnesota, I always read the wise and funny column in the Minneapolis Star from Ms. Klobuchar’s father, Jim Klobuchar. It’s just possible that her early success on ballots was from the awareness of the name printed so prominently in the newspaper three times a week.

  12. gVOR08 says:

    I remember someone remarking, following some Senate Dem dinner function during Franken’s tenure, ‘Who knew the funny Senator from Minnesota was Amy Klobuchar?’ I like her a lot, but I’m from that part of the world (ND actually). I’m not sure how her down-to-earth, Minnesota nice persona will go over in the rest of the country. I also worry, despite the number of successful Dem female midterm candidates, that Rs will have some success provoking misogyny in the general.

    That said, as always, I’ll vote for whoever I judge the most electable Dem in the primary, and whatever Dem is nominated in the general. If that’s Klobuchar, I’ll vote for her enthusiastically.

  13. Moosebreath says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    “Think Democratic governors not senators. A good, popular Democratic governor is almost certain to make a better candidate than any senator.”

    Not disagreeing, but I don’t think there’s a great set of choices there. The ones serving currently (someone who was just elected in 2018 for the first time is a non-starter):

    Jerry Brown (CA) — way too old.
    John Hickenlooper (CO) — running.
    Daniel Malloy (CT) — more likely to be in prison in 2020 than running for President.
    John Carney (DE) — not likely due to the size of the state, but has a decent resume.
    David Ige (HI) — not too likely.
    John Bel Edwards (LA) — no real objection, but no national profile.
    Mark Dayton (MN) — good resume, but likely too old.
    Steve Bullock (MT) — likely running, though small state.
    Phil Murphy (NJ) — only elected in 2017, with no prior governmental experience.
    Andrew Cuomo (NY) — said he’s not running, and besides, I am not voting in the primary for a person who works against his party’s interest so often.
    Roy Cooper (NC) — hasn’t shown much ability at in-fighting in his time there.
    Kate Brown (OR) — somehow, I suspect that a bisexual woman won’t get much support in the non-coastal regions.
    Tom Wolf (PA) — only if we are voting for president of a college.
    Gina Raimondo (RI) — see Dan Malloy above.
    Ralph Northam (VA) — no real objection, but no national profile.
    Jay Inslee (WA) — maybe.

  14. Franklin says:


    a) Really want to run (so strike people like Mario Cuomo and, I suspect, Joe Biden)

    I’d strike people like Mario Cuomo for other reasons, actually.

  15. MarkedMan says:


    If we learned nothing else from Gore, Kerry and Clinton

    And on the other side, people like Dole and Romney

  16. MarkedMan says:


    I’d strike people like Mario Cuomo for other reasons, actually

    OK, I deserve that, but in my defense I wasn’t a) thinking he was still alive, or b) confusing him with his dirtbag son Andrew, but rather referring back to his history as “Hamlet on the Hudson”. “To be or not to be?” done over and over again to anyone who would listen. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Mario and campaigned for him twice for Governor, but after a few months of that he was the only person left who actually believed he might want to run for president.

  17. Todd says:

    @MarkedMan: Yes, if you think about it, the last uncharismatic person to win the Presidency was George H.W. Bush, and he only lasted one term despite the fact that history will likely judge him as a relatively good President.

  18. Michael Reynolds says:

    Recent presidents who came from state houses:

    George W. Bush
    Bill Clinton
    Ronald Reagan
    Jimmy Carter

    That’s not an impressive list. They all got elected, but I’d trade Klobuchar for any of them.

  19. Gustopher says:

    “Senator Of Small Things” sounds to me like she gets shit done, and takes advantage of what opportunities are there to advance a broad agenda, rather than expending all of her energy on one big ticket item.

    I think that’s exactly what we want in a President.

    I’m not sold on her, but there’s nothing about her that seems disqualifying. Can she put together a big campaign organization and appeal to a broad range of primary voters? We’ll see.

  20. Michael Reynolds says:

    Deval Patrick, a former governor. He’s supposedly Obama’s pick.

  21. James Pearce says:


    Not disagreeing, but I don’t think there’s a great set of choices there.

    I don’t know about all that. The Dems have several high-quality guvs who would make perfectly fine presidents. We’re going to need a person experienced in running a state after Trump.

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Deval Patrick, a former governor.

    The Bain Capital guy?

  22. MarkedMan says:


    she gets shit done, and takes advantage of what opportunities are there to advance a broad agenda, rather than expending all of her energy on one big ticket item.

    On the other hand, that describes Hillary Clinton to a T, post the glorious Health Care 1.0 train wreck she led during Bill’s first term. I’ve come around to the conclusion that table stakes are the ability to inspire admiration and confidence. If you ain’t got that, you ain’t got nuttin’

  23. Moosebreath says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    “Deval Patrick, a former governor. He’s supposedly Obama’s pick.”

    Last election was 2010, and working for Bain Capital, as Pearce noted (proving the old saying about blind squirrels…). Not a great combination.

  24. James Pearce says:

    @Moosebreath: But “not a white man.”

  25. Moosebreath says:

    @James Pearce:

    That comment says quite a lot about you. And not in a good way.

  26. Jim Brown 32 says:

    Sorry, She’d never win any of the Obama > Trump States in the SouthEast. Policy wonks are 20th Century. The President must be a storyteller and describe a vision of America that includes elements of the culture wars that voters claim to hate yet vote for time and time again. Klobuchar is Cabinet and VP material–IF Democrats can find a candidate that has a vision broader than their usual list of disparate policy proposals..

  27. Kylopod says:

    @Jim Brown 32:

    She’d never win any of the Obama > Trump States in the SouthEast.

    There’s only one Southeastern state which voted Democrat in 2012 and Republican in 2016: Florida, by a narrow margin both times. It’s an important state, but hardly necessary for Dems to win an electoral majority. The Midwest is far more crucial. (Not that I agree with your assessment that she’d “never” win those states, but either way it’s a curious thing to focus on.)

  28. James Pearce says:


    That comment says quite a lot about you.

    Oh goodie: the part of my day wherein I get psychoanalyzed by pseudonymous internet commenters…and also the part where I get called racist because I point out the prejudices of folks who think they don’t have any prejudices.

    You got a twofer today, my friend. Good job.

  29. Moosebreath says:
  30. James Pearce says:

    @Moosebreath: Lame….

  31. Moosebreath says:

    @James Pearce:

    Hey, I’m not the one who doesn’t understand why everyone around you thinks you are bigoted.

  32. James Pearce says:

    @Moosebreath: I understand why some of the posters here think I’m bigoted. They’d prefer I just go along with their lazy stereotypes of white men and I won’t.

    The next Dem president doesn’t need to be a woman or a black man, especially right now, a time when we have maybe 5 people –4 Senators and Deval Patrick– who fit that particular bill.

    A white man with the requisite experience would be fine. That is neither a controversial nor a bigoted statement.

  33. just nutha says:

    @Todd: I think it was Adlai Stevenson who is credited with responding to “you’ve got the vote of every thinking American” with “Yes, but I’ll need a majority to win.” These days, that exchange seems even more telling.

  34. just nutha says:

    @Moosebreath: Kate Brown just proposed adding $2 billion to the state budget (an amount even she admits she doesn’t know where to get) to “rescue” Oregon schools. This is over and above the 3.5% increase already in the budget and represents a doubling of that increase. As they say, the ads will write themselves.

    Being bi may be the least of her problems. Even so, bipartisan, pro-abortion, pro-schools, pro-solutions, mavericky Knute Buhler couldn’t convince Oregonians to vote for him–which is mostly a comment on how believable Oregon Republicans are.

  35. just nutha says:

    @James Pearce: Nonsense. The Managing Partner at Bain Capital part only proves that he’s as white as anyone in the ways that really matter.

    An Oreo’s oreo.