Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), whose best showing to date was third in New Hampshire, finished in Nevada with just 4.2 percent of the vote, in sixth place and without winning any delegates. She is leading in no state except her own, has no perceptible support among nonwhite voters and has no realistic path to the nomination.
In response to suggestions she needs to step away, her campaign put out a memo defending her insistence on remaining in the race. It did not contain a rationale for how she is going to do this. Asserting she is “a top choice for persuading Republican and Independent voters we need in order to beat Donald Trump in the fall” does not explain how she is going to win the nomination.
Her campaign’s assertion that she continues to “exceed expectations” was certainly true in New Hampshire but has occurred nowhere else. Moreover, exceeding expectations is a far cry from being able to win anyway.
Simply announcing a travel schedule and an ad buy, once more, does not tell us how she is going to climb into contention. Saying she is going to “continue to emphasize our efforts and investments in midwestern and southern states — Arkansas, Alabama, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Virginia. … [And be] competing heavily in places like Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, Tennessee and Oklahoma” leaves out the unpleasant reality: She is neither leading nor in contention in any of these states.
She can spend money and travel, but to what end? She is at 3 percent in the latest South Carolina poll (seventh place), 8 percent in Michigan (sixth place) and 7 percent in North Carolina (sixth place). You get the idea. With those numbers, she likely will not win any delegates. Her moderate voters, however, a natural fit for former vice president Joe Biden (and perhaps others), could be the difference between Sanders winning a state or one of the viable contenders winning. Remaining in the race will not inure to her benefit; it will benefit Sanders. How many times would she need to come in well in the back and without any delegates to stop asking supporters for money and continuing to tell voters she is a viable nominee?
She is not the only candidate without a path to the nomination who should exit the race at this point, but she is in possession right now of a small share of the electorate that is compatible with moderate Democrats who can in fact win, if the field shrinks. And time is of the essence here, since early voting is underway in multiple Super Tuesday states.
I say this as someone who thinks Klobuchar’s pragmatic politics is precisely the right formula for her party and the country. I have found her spunky debate performances impressive. But voters are saying she is not their top pick — or even their second, third, fourth or fifth in virtually all states. She has run a spirited race, but continuing on at this rate will only diminish her brand and help elect a candidate she has pointed out is exactly the wrong person to defeat Trump. Those close to her need to deliver some tough love.