MINNEAPOLIS — Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota announced Sunday that she will run for president in 2020, putting a pragmatic Midwesterner touting a message of competence and mettle into the burgeoning field of Democratic candidates.
Klobuchar held her rally at a park on the banks of the Mississippi River, near the site of the 2007 collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge, in which 13 people were killed and scores were injured.
The bridge was quickly rebuilt in 2008, after politicians and officials, including the senator, came together to expedite the construction process. The intended takeaway of its role as the emotional heart of her speech: Klobuchar is someone who will get things done.
“That sense of community is fracturing across our nation right now, worn down by the petty and vicious nature of our politics. We are all tired of the shutdowns and the showdowns, the gridlock and the grandstanding,” Klobuchar said. “Our nation must be governed not from chaos but from opportunity. Not by wallowing over what’s wrong, but by marching inexorably toward what’s right. And it has to start with all of us.”
Presidential announcements are typically choreographed to the second, with all exigencies covered. In Klobuchar’s case, her entry into the race came at an outside event at which the bareheaded candidate, her introductory speakers and hundreds of supporters were pelted by relentless snow. She sought to use that, too, as defining her candidacy.
“We don’t let a little snow stop us! We don’t let a lot of cold stop us!” Klobuchar said as she started her speech.
Later, speaking to reporters, she noted that she made her announcement “in the middle of a blizzard, and I think we need people with grit. I have that grit.”
When a reporter asked if she was tough enough to take on President Trump, she replied: “I’d have loved to see him sitting out here in the snow for an hour giving this speech.”
Trump commented on Klobuchar’s announcement via Twitter:
“Amy Klobuchar announced that she is running for President, talking proudly of fighting global warming while standing in a virtual blizzard of snow, ice and freezing temperatures,” he tweeted. “Bad timing. By the end of her speech she looked like a Snowman(woman)!”
In response, the senator tweeted: “Science is on my side, @realDonaldTrump. Looking forward to debating you about climate change (and many other issues). And I wonder how your hair would fare in a blizzard?”
The sprawling field Klobuchar joined Sunday includes four Democratic senators — Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Kamala D. Harris (Calif.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) and Cory Booker (N.J.). Other senators, including Sherrod Brown (Ohio) and the 2016 runner-up to the party’s nomination, Bernie Sanders (Vt.), are considering bids.
Klobuchar aimed to distinguish herself with a Midwestern earnestness, as she made clear in her speech.
“Today, on an island in the middle of the mighty Mississippi, in our nation’s heartland, at a time when we must heal the heart of our democracy and renew our commitment to the common good, I stand before you as the granddaughter of an iron-ore miner, as the daughter of a teacher and a newspaperman, as the first woman elected to the United States Senate from the state of Minnesota, to announce my candidacy for president of the United States,” Klobuchar said.
She said she was running “for every worker, farmer, dreamer and builder.”
“I am running for every American,” she said. “I am running for you. I promise you this as your president: I will look you in the eye. I will tell you what I think. I will focus on getting things done. That’s what I’ve done my whole life. And no matter what, I’ll lead from the heart.”
That middle-American positioning came under threat last week as multiple news organizations published reports that quoted unnamed staff members as saying Klobuchar had been an exceptionally difficult boss.
She has the third-highest staff turnover rate in the Senate, with an annual turnover rate of 35 percent, according to data from 2001 to 2017 collected by LegiStorm, a nonpartisan congressional research company.
Asked about the reports after her speech, Klobuchar praised her staff for putting together the announcement event.
“Yes, I can be tough. And yes, I can push people. I know that,” she said. “But in the end, there are so many great stories of our staff that have been with me for years who have gone on to do incredible things. And I have, I’d say, high expectations for myself. I have high expectations for the people who work for me. And I have high expectations for this country. That’s what we need. We need someone who is focused on getting things done for our country.”
The 58-year-old former prosecutor has spent much of her career attempting to be a bipartisan coalition-builder, willing to appear on Fox News as well as MSNBC. She can point to election victories that illustrate an ability to win in liberal urban areas as well as conservative rural ones.
Klobuchar in 2006 became the first woman from Minnesota elected to the U.S. Senate, and has continued to win as that area of the country has become more Republican. She was easily reelected in 2012 and 2018, carrying conservative areas of the state that Trump won in 2016.
She can tout a record of productivity, with Medill News Service ranking her in 2016 as the senator who sponsored or co-sponsored the most bills that became law.
But she is relatively untested when it comes to raising the kind of money needed for a campaign, as well as appealing to minorities and winning over liberals. She has voted with Trump’s position nearly a third of the time, which is far more often than other Democratic senators running for president or considering a campaign, according to a tally maintained by FiveThirtyEight.
Klobuchar was born and raised in Minnesota. Her father, a sportswriter and columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, was an alcoholic, which put strains on the family that she recounted in her 2015 memoir, “The Senator Next Door: A Memoir from the Heartland.”
She discussed her family history when she questioned Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh during his hearing before the Senate last year, asking him if he had ever blacked out after drinking.
“I don’t know. Have you?” he shot back, in an exchange that drew widespread attention and for which he later apologized.
Klobuchar was the valedictorian of her public high school, and earned a degree in political science from Yale University while spending a summer working as a construction worker, pounding stakes into the ground for the Minnesota Highway Department. She earned a law degree from the University of Chicago, and in 1998 was elected as attorney of Hennepin County, Minnesota’s most populous.
Her status as a neighbor to the first state to cast ballots in 2020 may be beneficial, as Klobuchar suggested in her speech Sunday. She spoke of the meandering Mississippi River, on whose bank she stood, and noted that further south it passed through Iowa — a state, she said, where Minnesotans “go south for the winter.”
“At least I do,” she said.