WASHINGTON – Sen. Amy Klobuchar said Wednesday that she is “getting close to a decision” about running for president in 2020, as other prominent Democrats begin to jump in the race to challenge President Donald Trump next year.
“I’m continuing to talk to people about it,” the Minnesota Democrat said in an interview in her U.S. Senate office, a day before the start of a new congressional term. She said those discussions have been with a handful of longtime political advisers in Minnesota, some fellow U.S. senators and others.
Klobuchar, who was overwhelmingly elected to a third six-year Senate term in November, said that if she does run, her presidential campaign would be headquartered in Minnesota. Her likeliest strategy would be to win or finish strongly in neighboring Iowa, with its presidential caucus on Feb. 3, 2020.
Klobuchar declined to put an exact timeline on when she’d reveal her plans. But she acknowledged that the likelihood of a large Democratic field vying to challenge Trump means she can’t wait too long.
One of Klobuchar’s colleagues, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, launched a presidential exploratory committee on Monday and is scheduled to visit Iowa this weekend. A handful of other U.S. senators are expected to jump in the race soon. Former Vice President Joe Biden is considering a run, as are a handful of Democratic governors, members of the U.S. House and other current or former elected officials.
“It doesn’t really matter to me what dates they do it or how they do it,” Klobuchar said of her potential Democratic rivals. “But I do think with a field this big, you don’t have the luxury of waiting for six months or something like that. There’ll be raising money issues, you have issues of hiring people and starting an organization. So all of those things would dictate that you have to make a decision sooner rather than later.”
Klobuchar finished fourth out of 12 possible Democratic contenders in a poll of likely Iowa caucusgoers taken in mid-December, with 10 percent support. Biden, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and then-U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke finished higher.
Klobuchar said in the interview that her record of bipartisan collaboration would make for a strong contrast with Trump, who she said “seems to gravitate to chaos.”
“The way you get to higher ground is by finding common ground,” Klobuchar said.
While not yet a candidate, Klobuchar shared some thoughts on issues she’d likely emphasize if she runs, and what she sees as her political path. She pointed to a handful of things she’s worked on in the Senate — like pushing for cheaper pharmaceuticals, data and internet privacy, and security of American elections — as the kind of kitchen-table issues that many voters think have been neglected in the Trump era.
“I’m someone that has pragmatically taken on the issues of the day,” Klobuchar said. “We need to listen to people and take on their causes. We need to have their backs.”
The political calculation behind Klobuchar’s potential bid is that Democrats would benefit from a candidate with deep Midwestern roots, given Minnesota and nearby states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa could be up for grabs in the next election. Trump carried Michigan and Wisconsin in 2016, the first time either state went for a Republican in many years, and Democrat Hillary Clinton only narrowly carried Minnesota.
“We left the Midwest [behind in 2016] and that can’t happen again,” Klobuchar said. She noted that Democrats rebounded last year by winning governor’s races in Michigan and Wisconsin, and made other Midwestern gains: “We’re going to have to continue that momentum and I think you need people who can relate to people in the Midwest.”
A handful of other Democratic senators running or likely to run hail from East or West Coast states. While Klobuchar’s Midwestern profile distinguishes her, she’s also further removed from important Democratic donor communities based in those parts of the country — like Wall Street, Hollywood and Silicon Valley. Many of those coastal politicians also represent a much more diverse electorate than in Minnesota, leaving Klobuchar with fewer ties to minority groups that are increasingly pivotal to the Democratic coalition.
But U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer, a Republican who said he’s forged a friendly working relationship with Klobuchar, warned other Democratic contenders not to underestimate his Minnesota colleague. He laughed as he said that a successful presidential bid by Klobuchar is probably the only way Minnesota Republicans would ever see her dislodged from her Senate seat.
“She, I think, is as formidable as anybody who is in that group,” Emmer said of the emerging Democratic field. “And I would say this: Anybody who is thinking about running for president and is thinking about writing off Amy Klobuchar better think again. You do not want to underestimate Minnesota’s Mrs. Nice. She is very sharp and she knows exactly what she’s doing.”