Anything less than launching a presidential bid would be a dud at the Boom Island Park event, especially since the Minneapolis forecast is for snow and 18 degrees, weather that will spark a run on the promised hot chocolate.
The hardy, hearty optics, and maybe even the senator’s rhetoric itself, might evoke the “Bold North” ethos emphasized during last year’s Super Bowl in Minneapolis. And in some sense the senator’s declaration is indeed intrepid, especially considering the nearly two dozen Democrats announcing or considering a campaign, including former Vice President Joe Biden, who may appeal to some of the same voters Klobuchar would court.
And while certainly not a novice at politics or governance — Klobuchar, 31st in Senate seniority, has more tenure than colleagues-turned-candidates such as New York’s Kirsten Gillibrand (42nd), Massachusetts’ Elizabeth Warren (65th), New Jersey’s Cory Booker (68th) or California’s Kamala Harris (86th) — she’s not had the continual coverage from national media most of those coastal senators have had (although social media may transcend that challenge).
But being from, and resoundingly re-elected by, the “Bold North” may have its advantages, especially given the Democrats’ dismal Midwest results in 2016. And for a presidential prospect, proximity to neighboring Iowa (“The Senator Next Door,” like the title of Klobuchar’s 2015 book) can’t hurt in the state that holds 2020’s first caucus.
Back in Klobuchar’s home state, despite the Super Bowl’s success, “Bold North” wasn’t adopted as Minnesota’s marketing mantra. Instead, “Find Your True North” was unveiled Tuesday as the state’s new tourism slogan.
Minnesotans enduring this month’s snowstorms and polar vortex may want to lose, not find, their true north, but in a metaphorical, not meteorological sense, perhaps “Find Your True North” is even more fitting for a candidate than “Bold North.”
Because that’s what these quadrennial campaigns should ideally be about: setting a direction of core beliefs and values to lead the country — if not the West and even the world — with principled presidential leadership.
True north has never been a fixed point in raucous America, but it’s especially elusive in this polarized, turbulent era, when some Republicans question whether President Donald Trump is upholding or upending core conservative values, and when many Democrats are leaning (or lurching, to critics) further left.
This week’s news narrative reflects both trends.
GOP lawmakers are increasingly insistent that Trump not set a bad presidential precedent by declaring a state of emergency to fund a border wall, and that he not retreat from hard-fought gains with precipitous pullouts from Afghanistan and Syria.
Meanwhile, some Democrats are seeking a “Green New Deal,” single-payer health care, higher taxes on the rich and other key components of a progressive agenda that each 2020 candidate will be pressed to reflect or reject.
The president will press, too, as he did during Tuesday’s State of the Union speech, in which he said to robust Republican applause, “Tonight we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country.”
America’s far from it, especially economically. But politically, the word will be weaponized, particularly if prominent among the Democratic Party’s avatars are freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Bernie Sanders (28th in Senate seniority).
“Socialism” isn’t among a January Gallup poll’s “most important problem facing the country today” (in fact, it isn’t even mentioned — yet). Instead, the top response, at 29 percent, is “the government/poor leadership.”
Expect Klobuchar to focus on this theme, which will give her the opportunity to highlight her record of reaching out to Republicans on bipartisan bills, including some among a flurry of initiatives just this week.
On Tuesday, along with Alaska Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan, she introduced the Global Electoral Exchange Act, designed to establish an international information sharing program on election administration and security at the State Department.
On Wednesday, she joined Judiciary Committee colleagues on a bill intended to lower the price of prescription drugs.
On Thursday she reintroduced legislation to allow 529 education and savings accounts to include training and credentialing programs.
On Friday, along with Wyoming Republican Mike Enzi, she reintroduced legislation to end the Cuba trade embargo. And later it wasn’t legislation, but a letter co-signed by fellow Minnesotan Tina Smith and four other Democrats urging the Power-5 college-athletic conferences to toughen sexual-assault policies.
Important issues, all, albeit not ones that get live CNN coverage.
When the bright lights did shine, so did Klobuchar, at least in the eyes of Democrats who thought she asked consequential questions at recent hearings for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Attorney General nominee William Barr.
Klobuchar will likely try to leverage that reputation as a substantive senator (as well as fend off her reputation as a difficult boss, as reported by the Huffington Post on Wednesday). But what will matter most for her chances will be if the true north of Democratic voters and candidates are aligned.
The energy among party activists is for activism; voters may be more cautious and could rally around a candidate who projects a sensible centrism — at least among the spectrum of Democratic candidates (compared to Trump and Klobuchar’s GOP colleagues, her record is progressive).
Like many Minnesotans before her, Klobuchar is about to embark in an intense political process and personal journey like no other. So regardless of the outcome, she’s bold to throw her hat in the ring.
Especially in February.
John Rash is a Star Tribune editorial writer and columnist. The Rash Report can be heard at 8:10 a.m. Fridays on WCCO Radio, 830-AM. On Twitter: @rashreport.