Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s presidential campaign announced on Friday that the Minnesota Democrat raised "$11.4 million from 145,126 donors in the fourth quarter. The campaign exceeded its third quarter fundraising numbers by 137% and had the strongest fundraising quarter of the entire campaign.” The campaign also disclosed that the vast majority of her donors had not maxed out. (“The average online contribution was $32 and 92% of donors gave less than $200.”)

Money pays for ads, and sure enough, she announced a “six-figure” TV buy for Iowa and New Hampshire. Her ad, titled “What It Takes,” echoes her message that she is the sensible candidate who can get things done:

“If you feel stuck in the middle of the extremes in our politics and you’re tired of the noise and the nonsense, you’ve got a home with me,” she says, challenging the staunch progressives in the top tier. She reiterates a favorite campaign line: “I don’t want to be the president for half of America. I want to be the president for all of America.”

Klobuchar is not in the same fundraising or polling tier as the top four candidates. She raised less money than businessman Andrew Yang, who hauled in $16.5 million last quarter. Yet, for several reasons, she remains well-positioned to finish strong in Iowa and lift herself into contention.

First, organization and energy on the ground count for a lot in a caucus state, and she has both. Not unlike Republican Rick Santorum, who came from nowhere to win Iowa in 2012, Klobuchar has visited all 99 counties where she has turned out substantial crowds.

Second, timing is everything. Klobuchar is improving in polling and fundraising while others such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) are declining. Her consistently strong debate performance have helped drive both poll and fundraising numbers up. (She has the advantage of trailing other top contenders, thereby escaping attacks.) She will have another chance to repeat her effective performances on Jan. 14.

Third, she is improving as a candidate as she goes along. Her barbs at President Trump are sharper, her jokes funnier and her indictments of unrealistic pie-in-the-sky progressive schemes are more biting. Rather than simply “Minnesota nice,” she has developed the persona of a plucky, tart Midwesterner. She delights in recounting her rollout speech given in a snowstorm. She recently told an Iowa crowd that Trump recently sent out "a tweet making fun of me for talking about climate change in the snow and giving me the name that I actually liked: Snow Woman. To which I wrote back, ‘Mr. President, the science is on my side, and I’d like to see how your hair would fare in a blizzard.’”

Fourth, she is a good match for Iowa, and not only because she lives in a neighboring state and because she knows a lot about agriculture. She prides herself on the qualities that many Midwestern voters share — grit, common sense and disdain for pretense, opulence (she jokes that she won’t spend time at her resorts because she does not own any) and whining (about which she also needles Trump). She does not lecture audiences, but rather strikes one as unpretentious.

Fifth, she provides the Goldilocks solution for many undecided voters. She is not a septuagenarian, but is nevertheless seasoned. She is moderate on policy positions, but is also a populist willing to go after lobbyists and Big Pharma. She is a woman (risky!), but someone who can tout her ability to win the states behind the Blue Wall (electable!).

Finally, she does not have to win or even come in second to make a splash in Iowa. A strong third-place showing or placing ahead of any of the top-tier candidates gives her a headline. (Klobuchar surprises! Klobuchar beats expectations!) It is no easy trick simultaneously to keep expectations low and to show momentum. Her ability to pull off that balancing act speaks to her political skills, which so far have been under-appreciated.

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