Her message was simple, but effective: “At a time when Donald Trump wakes up every morning trying to divide us, using immigrants as political pawns, belittling people who don’t agree with him, destroying our democracy with dark money and voter suppression, and allowing a foreign country to make mincemeat of our democracy, we need a candidate for president who understands that what unites us as a country is greater than what divides us, that has a track record of winning Democrats and independents and moderate Republicans in every place, in every race, every time.” She might have added, “And who is decades younger than he is, is a skilled prosecutor and knows the heartland better than he does.”
Certainly her agenda is more clearly aimed at rural states than any Democratic presidential contender with the possible exception of Montana Gov. Steve Bullock.
“Let’s bridge our digital divide. As president, I will connect every household to high-speed Internet by 2022. I figure if they did it in Iceland, they can do it in New Hampshire,” she declared to friendly applause. “Let’s close the transportation divide by investing in infrastructure and yes, getting commuter rail to Manchester and beyond.”
If former vice president Joe Biden is grave in denouncing Trump’s character, Klobuchar is lively and funny. “Donald Trump’s idea of diplomacy is waking up before the sun comes up and sending out a tweet in his bathrobe, extolling the virtues of Kim Jong Un and then before the sun goes down, going after Denmark and Greenland,” she said. “As I said a few weeks ago, what’s the difference between Donald Trump and Greenland? Greenland is not for sale.” She threw in for good measure: “And as your president, Democrats, I will pledge that I will never have my vice president stay in a resort I own. Oh, that’s right. I don’t own a resort.”
And Klobuchar would make it easy for many disgusted Republicans to cross party lines and vote for her.
“As one America, we believe that instead of engaging in vanity trade wars, and adding debt, and giving tax breaks to Big Oil, and alienating our allies, and coddling dictators, we should be a country that makes things and invent things and exports to the world,” she argued. “A country that promotes and unleashes both ideas that lead to shared economic prosperity and ideals as the world’s beacon of democracy that other countries can look up to.”
In an interview after her speech, Klobuchar was certainly upbeat, and why not? She happily pointed to the Union Leader front-page headline: “Klobuchar at center stage: Senator defends moderate stance in a year of progressive energy.” She was every bit the no-nonsense senator we saw dismantle Brett M. Kavanaugh at his Supreme Court confirmation hearing.
I asked Klobuchar about reports that a U.S. Air Force crew stayed at Trump’s Scottish resort during a refueling stop at a nearby airport. “It’s wrong, it’s not legal,” she said bluntly. His desire to “make money off people” in the presidency is the basis of the ongoing litigation over Trump’s alleged violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution, she pointed out.
On the trade issue, Klobuchar said, “I see this president as using these farmers like a bunch of poker chips in one of his bankrupt casinos.” Some of these farmers voted for Trump, but also for her in 2016, she noted. She went on, lambasting him for going “way big” and “way broad” instead of working with allies. She also slammed his incredible inconsistency — threatening sanctions one day, lifting them the next, promising tax cuts and then pulling them off the table. President Xi Jinping of China must be looking at this, she said, and wondering, “What is wrong with this country?” She added that “it really hurts us in our negotiating and in the fact he does not work well with others, with our allies.”
If you squinted just a tad, you really can see a plausible path to the nomination for her. Biden, who is testing whether enthusiasm is a necessity in a presidential primary, is beloved but compares poorly at times to more dynamic speakers, and that includes Klobuchar. If voters drift off, or if he finishes poorly in Iowa and New Hampshire, the moderate contingent of the party will look around. She may be the only one meeting that description and still standing at that point. If so, Democrats would find out the benefits of occupying the segment of the electorate from center-left to center-right.