Klobuchar May Be Casualty of Minneapolis

Former prosecutors are suddenly "out."

While Amy Klobuchar’s Presidential campaign never really got off the ground, she was widely considered a frontrunner to be Joe Biden’s running mate. That seems to have changed because of the incidents of this week.

The Daily Beast (“Team Biden on Klobuchar: ‘We Need to Avoid Her'”):

In recent weeks, Sen. Amy Klobuchar has positioned herself as a leading contender in the race to join former Vice President Joe Biden on the Democratic ticket. But growing civil unrest in her home state of Minnesota in response to the death of an unarmed black man at the hands of a white police officer—and renewed scrutiny of her record as the top prosecutor in the state’s largest county—appears to have severely hampered her ambition to be the Democratic Party’s vice presidential nominee.

“Vertiginous,” a campaign adviser said in a one-word text, describing Klobuchar’s fall in the rankings of potential running mates.

The three-term senator’s drop has been so swift that a planned Minnesota digital event with Dr. Jill Biden and coronavirus first-responders scheduled for Friday was pulled, according to a source familiar with the campaign’s deliberations, “partly because we need to avoid her.”

“Vertiginous” is an impressive word choice. But what happened?

As Minnesota’s governor has called in the National Guard to quell the uprising and President Donald Trump has called for the “shooting” of looters who have damaged private property during the protests, criminal justice advocates have pointed to Klobuchar’s seven-year tenure as Hennepin County attorney, when she declined to bring charges against numerous police officers who had been accused of police brutality. Instead, she preferred the use of grand juries to weigh charges, a process that usually obscured proceedings and tended to favor police.

Recent anger at Klobuchar has focused on a shooting of a civilian involving Chauvin in October 2006, months before Klobuchar would leave the Hennepin County Attorney’s office for the U.S. Senate. On social media Thursday night, progressives seized on reports that Klobuchar declined to prosecute Chauvin in the case. Her successor, Mike Freeman, issued a statement Friday saying he, not Klobuchar, was responsible for Chauvin’s prosecution, which resulted in a grand jury declining to charge the officer.

That’s a bold move by Freeman but one unlikely to matter.

Appearing on MSNBC Friday, Klobuchar hit back against those reports, saying “this idea that I somehow declined a case, which has been reported on some news blogs and then sent out on the Internet, against this officer is absolutely false.” She also bristled at questions from Andrea Mitchell about whether she should drop out of contention for the VP nod. “This is Joe Biden’s decision,” Klobuchar said. “He will make that decision. He’ll decide who he’s considering.”

While none of this would matter in a race against Trump and Mike Pence, whose records on such issues are much worse, the fact is that African-American turnout is crucial for getting a Democratic ticket elected.

Rashad Robinson, executive director for the civil rights advocacy group Color of Change, has been critical of Klobuchar’s record when she was running. He didn’t say Klobuchar should not be considered as a nominee but told The Daily Beast her explanations this week of her record prosecuting police brutality cases have been “far too cute” and “have seemed to avoid responsibility at a time when we know DAs were not doing their jobs.” 

“To look us in the eyes and pretend we don’t know what’s happening,” said Robinson, “is a disappointment.”

One wonders whether Kamala Harris, another frontrunner for the VP slot, isn’t going to be in the same boat. Granting that she’s herself African-American, she made her career as a prosecutor and has faced similar accusations. And, despite a very strong start to the campaign, she never attracted significant African-American support.

The piece mentions a candidate who had previously been quite a longshot but who might well benefit from all this:

Meanwhile, at a “Women for Biden” fundraiser on Friday afternoon, Jill Biden appeared alongside Rep. Val Demings of Florida, a former Orlando police chief and another contender for the vice presidential slot. Demings, a favorite of Jill Biden’s who has been increasingly mentioned as a potential running mate, said during the event that the nation’s police officers must “take a serious look at ourselves as law enforcement agencies, not just Minnesota but throughout the nation.”

She had a blistering op-ed in the Post yesterday about the events in Minnesota and the broader issue of police brutality. While the House is not traditionally a platform for national office, a former police chief of a medium-sized city would have some credibility.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Michael Reynolds says:

    Oh, she’s done.

  2. mattbernius says:

    Thankfully this has most likely put the nail in Klobuchar’s coffin. While I agree that its unfair to hold what happened with Chauvin against her, she had a long record of enabling the worst excesses of that police department and all of that would have come out and been used against her. And she is not the type who would ever apologize or “evolve” her views on Criminal Justice reform.

    Which gets to a moment for Biden–sadly one I don’t think he will rise to. This is the moment for him to address his record and clearly state that he got a number of things wrong in hindsight on Criminal Justice reform. That’s not an easy things for a politician to do, but if ever there was a moment, now is it.

    Which to some degree, Harris had begun doing already. And if she could thread that needle, that would strengthen her position as now there is no question that Biden’s running mate needs to be an African American.

    I also agree that Val Demings’ star could be in ascension. I also would watch how things play out in Atlanta and how Keisha Lance Bottoms manages the protests there. This could move her onto the National Stage in a powerful way (and her connections to Killer Mike could go a long way to bridging the divide with some Bernie supporters).

  3. Bill says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Oh, she’s done.

    I have never been crazy about Klobuchar because of her staff issues. Her being out of consideration may open the door for

    African American
    A former Chief of police for a major city

    Her name-

    Val Demings

    Oops I didn’t read what James wrote before posted but if anyone cared to check, I have mentioned Demings name around here at 2 to 3 times as a potential VP pick.

  4. wr says:

    Perhaps we can dare to dream that we might even get a defense lawyer on the supreme court one day…

  5. Lounsbury says:

    So, suburban middle class dostricts lost, run up city vote, four more years of Trump and the US reruns its 1970s period.

  6. Stormy Dragon says:


    I have to say that Sonia Sotomayor has quickly become my favorite SCOTUS judge, and a big part of that was the pleasant surprise that she takes police and prosecutorial abuse or overreach very seriously.

  7. mattbernius says:

    @Stormy Dragon: I am cautiously optimistic about Gorsuch on a number of law enforcement issues. I have no hopes for Kavannaugh.

  8. Neil Hudelson says:

    Speaking of killer Mike, his speech yesterday was one hell of a gut punch. No wonder Bernie wanted him on the campaign trail.


  9. Gustopher says:


    I have never been crazy about Klobuchar because of her staff issues.

    If there’s any truth to the stories about how she treats her staff, I don’t know why anyone would pick her to be someone they voluntarily work with.

  10. CSK says:

    Sometimes people will work for an awful boss because of the other advantages or opportunities they may see as arising from that employment; they may view taking some abuse as a worthwhile trade-off. Just an example: Sometimes–not necessarily in this case–working for an asshole can be very well paid. Other times it’s the connections one can make.

  11. Michael Reynolds says:

    I’m not sure that’s going to work this time. I’m not convinced the suburbs will conclude that four more years of this madness is the move to make. I’ll watch the polls with interest. Trump closed the gap on the rally-round effect of Covid, but was still under water by ~5 points. That’s now widened back out to the usual ~11 points.

    I’m sure you know the old saying, May you live in interesting times. I’m not sure how many people realize that was intended as a curse.

  12. Gustopher says:

    @CSK: I was thinking more about why Biden would consider her — people who throw temper tantrums and staplers are not great to work along-side, in addition to not being great to work for.

    I get the need to work for someone, employees don’t always get to choose their boss. I even get the need to put her on a shortlist for VP and vet her, as she’s politically valuable to have as a committed supporter, but in the end I would hope that Biden would tell her that he really needs her in the Senate to spearhead the effort to push through reforms on pipecleaner manufacturing or whatever.

  13. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Lounsbury: Yeah, but it’ll be sooooooooo great to relive my teen years. Those were the days–hippies, summer of love, the Airplane, Watts, The Weather Underground, blowing up the ROTC building at the U of W.

    Good times. 🙁

  14. Lounsbury says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Of course it will work. Other items may overwhelm, but unless Biden delays decision, I see now a large risk of an unforced error to make some Activist Left mollification gestures in selections, rhetoric.

    If this continues, afraid I price in Trump victory as my default assumption.

  15. mattbernius says:

    Nothing triggers @Lounsbury like the idea of a minority VP candidate. I can only imagine how he told everyone in 2008 that picking the Black guy with the funny name was going to doom the Democrats.

    Or wait, is this going to get us to electing the first Black president is why we have Trump and therefore this is all the Democrats fault?!

  16. CSK says:

    That’s probably what he will do. But I can easily visualize a hypothetical situation in which someone with a lot of shortcomings might be, for other reasons, considered so valuable to an enterprise that a partner or running mate might overlook those shortcomings. And…Klobuchar would likely control herself around Biden, so he wouldn’t feel the effects of her temper. But I don’t think she brings enough to the ticket for him to overlook her shortcomings, temperamental and experiential.

  17. Scott F. says:

    @mattbernius: To be fair, the whites in the “Activist Left” rile as well.

  18. senyordave says:

    @Lounsbury: I don’t believe it will work. I think Trump has lost most people outside of his base. He’s already effed up his best chance of working this to his advantage with his looting/shooting comments.

  19. rachel says:

    @Neil Hudelson: Only respect for Killer Mike.

  20. de stijl says:

    Not to content police, but the prospects of Kloubuchar are extremely down the list of stuff happening in America today.