Senator Amy Klobuchar Enters Presidential Race

Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar became the latest Democrat to enter the 2020 race on Sunday.

Yesterday Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar became the latest entrant into the race for the Democratic nomination for President:

MINNEAPOLIS — Amy Klobuchar, the third-term Minnesota senator, entered the race for the Democratic presidential nomination on Sunday, hopeful that her moderate politics, Midwestern roots and carefully cultivated history of bipartisanship can appeal to a broad swath of voters in contentious times.

On a snow-covered stage here along the banks of the Mississippi River, with the temperature barely above single digits, Ms. Klobuchar said that as president, she would “focus on getting things done.”

“For too long, leaders in Washington have sat on the sidelines while others try to figure out what to do about our changing economy and its impact on our lives, what to do about the disruptive nature of new technologies, income inequality, the political and geographic divides, the changing climate, the tumult in our world,” she said.

“Let’s stop seeing those obstacles as obstacles on our path,” she continued. “Let’s see those obstacles as our path.”

Ms. Klobuchar, 58, is the fifth woman currently serving in Congress to announce her candidacy, joining a crowded and diverse field of Democratic presidential hopefuls. With most of the top-tier candidates hailing from coastal states, Ms. Klobuchar believes her low-key brand of “Minnesota nice” politics could make her a compelling candidate, particularly to the Iowa voters who cast the first primary votes and in states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania that swung the 2016 election to President Trump.

A politician who prides herself on being able to “disagree without being disagreeable,” Ms. Klobuchar coasted to victory in November, beating her Republican opponent with 60 percent of the vote in a state that Mr. Trump nearly won in 2016.

Despite her friendly public persona, she’s said to be a difficult boss. A survey of senators by the website LegiStorm from 2001 to 2016 found that her office had the highest turnover in the Senate. “I have high expectations,” she told The New York Times last year. A recent HuffPost article portrayed her as a demanding manager who lost some potential 2020 campaign staff members because of her reputation.

Ms. Klobuchar said Sunday that she would focus on reforming election laws, including a plan to automatically register people to vote when they turned 18. She also pledged to enter a mutual agreement to fight climate change, and to expand laws protecting online privacy.

While her approach may appeal to centrists and moderate Republicans in her home state, her breaks with liberal orthodoxy risk alienating the ascendant progressive wing of her party. Ms. Klobuchar backs a less expansive college affordability proposal, has not embraced Senator Bernie Sanders’s “Medicare for all” legislation and has not joined the movement to abolish the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

Based on her resume, Klobuchar seems like someone who could easily become a top tier candidate for the nomination once she’s able to increase her name recognition among Democrats outside of Minnesota. Prior to entering national politics, she served as the County Attorney for Hennepin County, the most populous county in Minnesota. She was also quite active in the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL), which is the moniker that the Democratic Party goes by in Minnesota. In 2006, she ran for and easily won the nomination of the DFL and went on to an easy win in the General Election that November to replace retiring 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, in November 2018, 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 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.

Additionally, while Klobuchar has largely floated under the national political radar in contrast to some of the other candidates in the race, that changed significantly in the wake of the Brett Kavanaugh nomination and especially the hearings regarding the accusations made against him by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and other women. During that hearing, Klobuchar,  no doubt utilizing the skills she had developed as a prosecutor, 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.

While Klobuchar is polling below most of her rivals for the nomination right now, Nate Silver maps out how she could find a path to winning the nomination. Silver’s analysis is far too detailed to excerpt fairly, so I will recommend that you read the full article to see it. Generally speaking, though, he pins her advantages down to several areas. First of all, given the extent to which Democrats seem to be concerned primarily with electability, Klobuchar has an advantage because Klobuchar can point to a number of factors, including most prominently her Midwestern roots, as an advantage over candidates more closely identified with either the East or West Coast. Additionally, Silver argues, Klobuchar’s ties to Minnesota could provide her an advantage in Iowa since many of Minnesota’s major media markets also reach into some of the most populated areas of the Hawkeye State, meaning that Democrats there are likely more familiar with her there than they might be with other candidates. Finally, Klobuchar would offer a sharp contrast to Trump as the party’s nominee while also putting forward a record that would be hard for Republicans to attack as “radical.” On the downside, Silver notes that Klobuchar will need to prove her bona fides to the non-white voters that make up a substantial part of the Democratic electorate and she would also need to prove herself to party insiders who may doubt the ability of someone who has been a relatively quiet Senator up until now to take on a candidate like Trump. Assuming she can do that, though, she may be able to rise up the ranks of the 2020 field as we move forward with the process.



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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. Jay L Gischer says:

    If the mettle she’s demonstrated so far holds, she is in fact a very good opponent for Trump, precisely because of that midwestern lack of drama. Matter-of-fact, open, direct and focused on what you want to do, rather than on trading insults. I think that will go over very well.

    But she does need to do something to get the attention of voters. I have no idea what that would be.

  2. Teve says:

    being from the Midwest has its advantages. Farmers in the midwest are going bankrupt now in record numbers from Trump’s trade policies.

  3. Kylopod says:

    Nate Silver maps out how she could find a path to winning the nomination

    Silver has been doing “How so-and-so can win the nomination” pieces for every candidate, including long-shot ones like Tulsi Gabbard and Pete Buttigieg. They’re intended more as thought experiments than serious predictions.

  4. Michael Reynolds says:

    I think she’s got an excellent chance, but not if we’re going to get months of leaks from inside her campaign about her mistreating staff. If she’s a yeller it would take just one video of an unhinged Klobuchar to sink her. It would be too off-brand.

  5. Franklin says:

    I haven’t been watching too closely, but I did note that HuffPost hit piece on her “mistreatment” of staff. She came off as the type of person who gives honest but hyperbolic feedback, and you have to be a damn good judge to get away with that. I grudgingly accept criticism that I realize is true (and slowly gain respect for the critic), but if somebody tells me my work sucks and I don’t trust their judgment, that’s a big problem.

    Anyway, we’ll see how that develops on the trail. I think we can get a sense of candidates’ management skills by how their campaign goes.

  6. CSK says:

    Very OT, but Axios just printed more of Trump’s schedules it received after the WH “crackdown”. Leaks just keep on leaking.

  7. Kylopod says:

    Someone remind me when being a mean boss has been previously raised as an issue about any candidate, ever.

  8. Paine says:

    I’m not looking for a “disagree without being disagreeable” candidate. I want a candidate that will say loudly and often that we’re right and they’re wrong and that there’s no reason to compromise with bad ideas just for the sake of comity.

  9. Michael Reynolds says:

    Irrelevant. The reality is that Klobuchar cannot sustain a ‘Midwestern Nice’ brand while leaking stories of nastiness toward staff. Rather than make excuses for bullying I think we need to take this seriously as a possibly damaging character flaw. Klobuchar can manage the current leaks with the ‘tough boss’ routine, but in the age of ubiquitous video she cannot afford to show up on Twitter screaming at anyone, that would confirm the stories and likely doom her. And however tough the Senate may be, running for POTUS is much higher pressure.

  10. MarkedMan says:

    I wonder if it was Bernie’s people who leaked? It’s his style.

  11. al Ameda says:

    Well then, let the vetting begin.
    Not sure it matters, but …

    This, already, from Bloomberg:

    By Jonathan Bernstein
    February 7, 2019, 3:30 AM PST
    Amy Klobuchar: Bad Boss?
    Reports that the senator has mistreated staff should be taken seriously. But also with a grain of salt.
    Senator Amy Klobuchar will apparently be declaring her presidential candidacy this weekend. She’s already run into trouble, in the form of a HuffPost article reporting that she’s mistreated her staff over the years — so much so that she’s had a hard time finding anyone to run her campaign.

  12. Kathy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    I’ve had bosses who were tough, and I’ve had bosses who were bullies. There’s a huge difference between them. Same with teachers. I’ve also had bosses who are demanding, but manage to be so without being either tough or a bully.

  13. wr says:

    @Michael Reynolds: “I think she’s got an excellent chance, but not if we’re going to get months of leaks from inside her campaign about her mistreating staff.”

    We’re going to get exactly that — if her opponents decide that’s how they’ll attack her.

    Just as we’re going to get months of screaming about Elizabeth Warren’s Native American “scandal.”

    And whether asking about whether to eat fried chicken with her hands or a fork proves that Kristen Gillibrand has no actual beliefs.

    We’re going to continue to be inundated with this crap for exactly as long as Democrats receive it by saying “well, I like this candidate, but clearly this is a vulnerability and so I’ll move on.”

    This stuff is entirely meaningless. Pundits love it, because it excuses them from doing any real work. (Thanks for the chicken tip, Frank Rich!)

    No one is going to protect the election from this kind of bullshit. It’s up to us as voters to tell the gossip-mongers to stick it all up their asses.

    Especially smart people like you, Michael, who seems willing to accept just about any slur against any candidate as a reason to look elsewhere…

  14. wr says:

    @Kylopod: “Someone remind me when being a mean boss has been previously raised as an issue about any candidate, ever.”

    Well, to be fair, a man who treats his staff like shit is a tough leader. It’s only when a woman is in charge that she’s being mean — or, more precisely, a bitch.

  15. Blue Galangal says:

    @Kathy: Same. And I”m a little tired already of the Twittersphere alternating between, “Good! Then she’ll beat Trump! She’s not afraid to get dirty!” and “No one would say this about a male boss.” Not the point. You can be a tough and demanding boss without cc’ing other staff on demeaning emails. Men and women should be held to a standard that does not excuse toxic and demeaning behaviour, especially when you are the one with the power. Aside from that general statement (wonder how she treats wait staff?), the two articles were in the works for some months and some specific things quoted gave me pause, especially the part where she focuses on minutiae instead of the big picture and everything that is wrong is “the worst” thing she’s ever seen (this week). That argues a “process” person who’s going to be fine when the rules (she sets but makes her employees guess) are followed but will lose it if the rules (that she just made up/changed this minute) are not followed.

    And just because she can point to two people who’ve stayed with her for 5-7 years doesn’t mean she’s not toxic. It might mean she’s not toxic or it might mean – as happens with many bullying bosses – she’s got her go-to people who enforce her crazy and are rewarded with her favor.

  16. Franklin says:

    See the real problem here is that she would only be the 46th president. With her initials, maybe she should wait another cycle or two, when she can get a lot of votes from the crossover AK-47 crowd.

  17. charon says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    What would be the motivation for her campaign staff to sabotage the campaign they are on?

    Maybe this is ratcopulation from outside her campaign. It does sound like Bernie.

  18. Sleeping Dog says:

    Most states have a state bird, MN also has a state psychiatric diagnosis, Passive-Aggressive Personality disorder. Lived there, experienced it, the wife is an LCSW, licensed in MN and a native and she pointed it out to me years ago. Hadn’t paid any attention to the Klobuchar allegations till today, when I went back and read them. The answer is found in the DSM and this is cooked up by the Bernie-crats and their fellow travelers in the press.

    That said she needs to get ahead of this and not let it fester like Warren’s heritage question.

  19. Lynn says:

    @Sleeping Dog: “MN also has a state psychiatric diagnosis, Passive-Aggressive Personality disorder.”

    AKA Minnesota Nice or Hypocritical PD. And yes, we do indeed suffer from this disorder or, rather, we make other people suffer.

  20. Kathy says:

    @Blue Galangal:

    We’ve already seen what having a bully in the White House can be like.

  21. Teve says:

    Oliver Willis
    Oliver Willis
    is sen harris black enough

    did sen warren say the thing about her heritage right

    did sen gillibrand eat chicken the right way

    is sen klobuchar too angry

    hi, its happening all over again.

    over the next year every conceivable piece of bullshit negativity is going to be thrown at any possible Democratic candidate, at the behest of the Republicans, trolls, and Russia.

    I’m just going to straight ignore as much of it as possible, same as I do the handful of trolls here.

  22. Gustopher says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    But she does need to do something to get the attention of voters. I have no idea what that would be.

    There’s an old Phil Ochs live album where he’s wearing a gold lamé suit, taking to the audience about the problems of wearing a gold lamé suit and someone screams out “STRIP!”, whereupon he explains that he could never strip because that would be cheap and demeaning.

    That’s the first thing that comes to mind when someone asks about how a politician can get more attention.

    She’s commonly mentioned in the first tier. She will get lots of interviews and profiles. I don’t think she will have to worry about getting a chance to introduce herself.

    Now, Hickenlooper is probably going to have to strip.

  23. Gustopher says:

    @Blue Galangal: There are also reports that her constituent services aren’t up to snuff, but that’s not as easy to measure as staff turnover.

    And enough people have had that type of bad boss that these claims will resonate if anything reinforces them.

    We have a ledge enough field that we shouldn’t settle for running a trash can fire against the Trump dumpster fire.

  24. Gustopher says:

    @wr: Don’t forget Harris being a prosecutor and sleeping her way to the top.

    All those candidates would be fine to me. I’ll aupport any of them in the general election, and whichever one handles their baggage and bullshit attacks best in the primaries.

  25. MarkedMan says:

    I’m indifferent to these charges. If she is a real psycho that will come out with no doubt. If not I’ll chalk it up to the Bernie Bros trying to swiftboat a sting candidate.

    What I am interested is how she reacts. So far, so good. Warren, I’m the other hand, is currently mishandling much weaker charges.

  26. MarkedMan says:

    @MarkedMan: I agree. This is actually a good proxy for the general, with the Bernie Bros throwing a ton of sh*t against anyone they fear. If a candidate can handle Bernie, they can handle Trump.

  27. Jim Brown 32 says:

    No chance against Trump outside of Democratic safe states…

  28. An Interested Party says:

    Any of these allegations (even if true) of a particular candidate need to be measured against who that candidate will run against in the general election…Klobuchar is mean to her staff? Compared to how Trump treats his staff? Harris slept her way to the top? Compared to how Trump or his surrogates paid off various women he slept with, not to mention his serial adultery & divorces?

    Of course, we can’t count on the so-called “liberal” media to make these comparisons and certainly not many voters who seem incapable of educating themselves…

  29. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    @An Interested Party:

    Klobuchar is mean to her staff? Compared to how Trump treats his staff?

    Being better than Trump is a low bar. A pretty low bar, specially considering how dysfunctional the Trump administration is. So, it will be fine if a Democratic President hires relatives because of Trump?

  30. Tyrell says:

    @Jay L Gischer: Passing laws to protect on-line privacy might get some attention: hopefully this will apply to Google and Facebook, among others.
    “Minnesota nice” sounds like a throwback to Hubert H. Humphrey, an optimist bridge builder if there ever was. “If we had one more week we would have won that election”.
    Klobacher seems like she is middle of the road, commonsense, more like the traditional Democrats that I grew up with; in contrast to the extreme positions others are taking: income to people who will not work, abolish air travel, rebuild or remodel every building in the country, and a hostile position toward Israel.
    I am not sure having this event out in the middle of a blizzard with temperatures way below freezing is a wise idea. After all, their vaunted Vikings football team has enough sense to play indoors up there.

  31. Gustopher says:

    @An Interested Party: I’m not convinced a trashcan fire can beat a dumpster fire.

    The dumpster fire’s base loves him. And in a battle of dueling awful, a lot of people will stay home, rather than pick the lesser of two awfuls.

    We need someone who is not just better than Trump, but actually good.

  32. Jen says:

    Tough boss, sure, abusive boss, no thanks. The turnover numbers are suspect, IMHO.

    I’ve worked in a state capitol building, and you learn quickly who’s not great to be around.

    Regarding “why haven’t we seen/heard this type of thing before,” well, we did. There were allegations that Sanders was a bad boss. Turnover doesn’t seem to reflect that, but then there are subsequent allegations from his campaign that seem to indicate problems. Those who are abusive to staffers tend to not advance beyond a certain point, because having staff that is loyal is like gold in politics. If you treat your staff like garbage, they aren’t going to be loyal–they might not be *disloyal*–they just won’t stick around.

    Having a staff that has your back is invaluable. The truth will out on this one–if there’s nothing to this, she’ll have no problems with her campaign staff. If there is something to this, it will show up, probably sooner rather than later because running for POTUS ain’t beanbag.

  33. Gustopher says:


    Tough boss, sure, abusive boss, no thanks. The turnover numbers are suspect, IMHO.

    Last night on Maddow, she mentioned that 20 of her staffers were hired into the Obama administration, and that several had returned. That would definitely affect turnover numbers, and might be a case where turnover is good — giving the staff the opportunity, experience and visibility to go forward with their careers. Or they might be fleeing her in droves.

    Numbers only tell part of the story.

  34. An Interested Party says:

    @Gustopher: I agree, there’s no need for more trash fires, but just as with Al Gore and John Kerry, nonissues were turned into trash fires that were successfully used against them…many people will try to equate anything involving these Democratic candidates with Trump, so the successful Democratic candidate will be someone who can brush off such ludicrous attacks…

  35. Blue Galangal says:

    @Gustopher: Yahoo News has a report out today that she sabotaged departing staffers’ new jobs by calling their new places of employment and getting their offers rescinded.

    Speaking out could lead to retribution from Klobuchar, should she be able to identify them. She has been known to grow irate at staffers who find work elsewhere, calling their new employers to have the offers rescinded. The practice, which three former staffers for Klobuchar described and one other Capitol Hill veteran confirmed, was seen as vindictive, mystifying and counterproductive. It was also a sign of how far Klobuchar would go to punish those who she thought betrayed her.

    They also addressed the “sexism” charge.

    Three female former Klobuchar employees say that while sexism remains a dismayingly potent force on Capitol Hill, it does not inform their own assessment of Klobuchar. Each of them separately said that the senator’s behavior was plainly abusive and went far beyond that of other senators known to be demanding and difficult.

    “She can’t hire top-tier staff,” one former staffer says. “It’s real.”

    The article also goes into slightly more detail about what staffers are coming forward and why now. Apparently Harry Reid rebuked her for her treatment of staff in 2015 as well, which I had not read in other reports.

    I hesitate to armchair-analyze anyone but Trump, but if I recall correctly from the Kavanaugh hearings, she stated that her father was an alcoholic. When I read this latest article, it clicked for me that she is an adult child of an alcoholic, which actually does make me feel more sorry for her than when I thought she was “just” a toxic boss.

  36. Gustopher says:

    @Blue Galangal:

    When I read this latest article, it clicked for me that she is an adult child of an alcoholic, which actually does make me feel more sorry for her than when I thought she was “just” a toxic boss.

    Eh, I wouldn’t feel sorry for her because of that. Part of managing people is recognizing whether you have the skills and the temperament to manage people. Some people don’t.

    If the stories are true, and substantiated, she is toast, and likely faces a strong challenge to keep her senate seat. But, she’s the daughter of an alcoholic who became the first woman Senator from Minnesota. I think she’ll land on her feet.

    I’m glad she’s getting tested early.