MASON CITY, IOWA – Sen. Amy Klobuchar pledged to work across the aisle and make rural issues a priority as she made the first stops of her presidential campaign on Saturday.
The Minnesota Democrat was greeted by hundreds of enthusiastic supporters at a restaurant in Mason City and at a coffee and bicycle shop in Eau Claire, Wis., as she kicked off a three-day swing also scheduled to include a stop in New Hampshire. People clapped and cheered as Klobuchar, accompanied by her husband and daughter, wove through the crowds at both sites to deliver her remarks.
Echoing the themes of her announcement speech, Klobuchar emphasized bipartisanship and the need for the nation to come together to address big problems. She promised action on issues ranging broadband access to climate change, saying the next president must “govern not from chaos, but from opportunity.”
“We’re going to look at each other and we’re going to look up at the challenges we face in this country,” she told a crowd that spilled out the doors of SHIFT Cyclery and Coffee Bar in Eau Claire. “And that’s what I’m going to be doing in this campaign.’
The pitch resonated with Cara Syth, an obstetrician-gynecologist who drove 40 minutes from Menomonie, Wis., with her husband and daughter to hear the Minnesota senator.
“I think she has an ability to bring people together,” she said. “We need that.”
Syth described herself as a longtime Klobuchar fan who always wanted to be represented by her neighboring state’s senator. “Now I can,” she said.
Amid another friendly crowd of 250 to 300 in Mason City late Saturday afternoon, Local Democratic leaders presented Klobuchar with a T-shirt and an invitation to their annual Wing Ding fundraiser.
Roots in the heartland
During both stops, Klobuchar cited her Midwestern roots. In Iowa, she joked about Minnesotans being able to see Iowa from their porches and commended the work of local Democrats during the last campaign.
Earlier in the day, she emphasized family ties to Wisconsin, where her mother and grandparents lived. The choice of Eau Claire as the site of her first stop was also a nod to her belief that Democrats must focus more on the Midwest and rural areas in order to win back the White House in 2020.
“What I’ve decided to do in our state and what I’ll do in our campaign is go to places that maybe we didn’t focus on in the last two years, and that includes our rural areas,” she said.
Klobuchar praised Democrats’ midterm wins in Wisconsin as signs the party can succeed at the top of the ticket, even after Hillary Clinton’s 2016 loss.
She faces a crowded and star-powered field of rivals for the Democratic nomination. While supporters filled both events, the stops were also an early chance for Klobuchar to introduce herself to key undecided voters, especially ahead of Iowa’s high-stakes caucuses early next year.
Pam Rhodes, a retiree from Eau Claire, said she appreciated the early attention from Klobuchar’s campaign after what she saw as a “mistake” by Clinton in not doing enough in the state. While Rhodes hasn’t decided which candidate to back in 2020, she was looking forward to learning more about Klobuchar, whom she called “reasonable” and “even-minded.”
Mason City resident Paul Doeden said he came out to hear what she had to say about lowering the cost of health care and President Donald Trump’s proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, which he opposes. “I want to see what we have in common,” he said.
Wisconsinite Marley Arel was also undecided heading into the event. The 17-year-old student from Eau Claire said he wanted to learn more about Klobuchar as he prepares to vote for the first time.
“It’s pretty exciting to make a difference and not be on the sidelines,” he said.