U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar had lunch with about 30 CEOs of the largest Minnesota companies last week.

According to an executive who was there but asked not to be named because the discussion was off the record, Klobuchar showed why her Republican opponent, state Rep. Jim Newberger, is struggling to gain traction against her, as confirmed by a host of public opinion polls.

These are the types of business leaders who could easily bankroll a Klobuchar opponent, but they don’t. She knows nearly all of them well and has helped many on important regulatory and legislative matters in Washington.

“For this group, she talked about exactly the right things,” the executive told me.

It’s a pragmatic gathering that wants progress toward ending trade hostilities between the U.S. and China. They want money for infrastructure. And they want a deal on immigration that will help solve their biggest problem right now: a shortage of workers.

If the polls are right and Klobuchar scores a big victory in November, the speculation about her future will begin immediately, specifically about the 2020 presidential race. She is not as well-known among the party’s progressive base nationally — a group whose members may not be looking for someone close to business in their pick for president.

But if you’re not well-known in politics, there’s a quick way to change that: advertising. Which takes money, which the executives at that lunch can provide.

Viral moment

Rep. Duane Quam, R-Byron, apologized after video went viral of him forcefully taking the mic from his DFL challenger Jamie Mahlberg at a debate, then tossing it back in her lap. Mahlberg has reportedly raised unsolicited money off the incident. This district leans Republican, so a Mahlberg victory would be a huge upset, but this could make it more interesting.

New poll

NBC/Marist poll of Minnesota out last week was ugly for the state GOP, but it could be an outlier. Still, by ugly, I mean really ugly. Double digit leads for Sens. Tina Smith and Amy Klobuchar plus gubernatorial candidate Tim Walz, plus a 12-point DFL lead in the generic congressional ballot.

Ads at the pump

Minnesota Action Network, a GOP-leaning group with ties to former Sen. Norm Coleman, rolled out a campaign hitting Walz for saying he’d sign a gas tax increase if he becomes governor. The ads are running — where else? — at gas pumps.

Wise strategy? The price of gasoline is rising, nearly 50 cents per gallon in the past year, and it’s a captive audience at the pump.

Head to the polls

Uber is giving free rides on Election Day. Remember to tip your drivers though.


J. Patrick Coolican 651-925-5042 Twitter: @jpcoolican patrick.coolican@startribune.com