Sen. Amy Klobuchar pulled out of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination Monday, ending a campaign that had been a long shot from the start but which took her further than any Minnesota politician in more than 35 years.
Recognizing that she had no viable path to the nomination, Klobuchar immediately threw her support to former Vice President Joe Biden. She and former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., both endorsed Biden on Monday, a sudden consolidation of the race’s Democratic centrists as they attempt to block Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders from the party’s nomination ahead of the pivotal, 14-state Super Tuesday primary.
Another one-time candidate, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, also backed Biden. He and Klobuchar were appearing with the former vice president at a Monday night rally in Dallas.
“There are 14 Super Tuesday states, including my home state, Minnesota. I want all of you to vote for Joe,” Klobuchar said at the rally, with Biden standing nearby.
Buttigieg and Klobuchar, Midwestern moderates who sparred sharply in recent weeks, exited the race within 24 hours of each other. That came after poor showings for both on Saturday in South Carolina, while Biden pulled off a sizable win in the first voting state with a major population of black voters.
For Klobuchar, who launched her campaign last February in a Minnesota blizzard, her departure was the culmination of an underdog bid that saw her rise in a crowded field of better financed rivals. Her longevity rested on a unifying message of moderation and electability, mixed with a series of fiery presidential debate performances.
Despite a surprise third-place finish just three weeks ago in New Hampshire, Klobuchar — trailing in the delegate race and running low on campaign funds — made her final public appearance as a candidate on Monday morning in Utah. Her campaign released word of her decision in the early afternoon.
“It was just too crowded in her lane,” said Jeff Blodgett, a longtime DFL strategist and adviser to Klobuchar. “I think it’s clear there’s an effort to consolidate around a single alternative to Bernie, and if you’re going to do that, why wait until after Super Tuesday?”
With Sanders’ progressive movement growing in strength, Klobuchar also faced the possibility of losing a statewide election in her home state for the first time.
Minnesota’s Democratic primary ballot will still feature Klobuchar’s name as voters head to the polls Tuesday. But early voting that began in January guarantees she has already accumulated votes. Her departure could boost Sanders’ bid to win Minnesota, where he has several prominent backers. One of them, Attorney General Keith Ellison, tweeted tersely at Klobuchar on Monday: “Thanks for your run,” he wrote. “Congratulations on your participation.”
Sanders held a large St. Paul rally Monday night. But Klobuchar’s endorsement was intended to give Biden a last-minute boost in Minnesota.
Klobuchar launched her bid with a speech along the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, promising to “cross the river of our divide” and restore a sense of shared purpose in a politically polarized country.
That day and in the months ahead, Klobuchar leaned on her prolific record of passing bills in the U.S. Senate, talked often of her partnerships with Republican colleagues, and constantly played up her electoral history of doing well as a Democrat in rural, Republican-leaning parts of Minnesota. She also amped up her critiques of President Donald Trump’s character, contrasting it to her own heartland sensibility.
Initially given little chance in a Democratic field that swelled to two dozen, Klobuchar outlasted numerous contenders who were given better odds. She increasingly moved toward the middle: most notably, by opposing the Medicare for All health care plan championed by Sanders; she also criticized the free college tuition proposals put forward by Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.
Mired in low single digits in polls for much of 2019, and lagging behind numerous rivals in fundraising, Klobuchar ran a smaller campaign that focused most of its resources on the first two states of Iowa and New Hampshire. Then came strong performances in a string of Democratic debates, which boosted her fundraising and brought more national media attention.
Klobuchar finished fifth in Iowa — not a great showing for a candidate from a neighboring state who had campaigned in all 99 counties. But the muddled caucus results and a strong showing a few nights later at a New Hampshire debate gave Klobuchar her first burst of real momentum.
Klobuchar’s third-place finish in New Hampshire was seen as an upset, but in retrospect it was her campaign’s high point. Sixth-place finishes in the Nevada caucuses and the South Carolina primary were taken as a sign that she was failing to win over Latino and black voters so important to the national Democratic coalition.
The glare of a presidential campaign also put a few tarnishes on Klobuchar’s public image. Numerous stories last year found former aides describing her as an overly demanding, at times difficult boss. Her past work as Hennepin County prosecutor fostered criticisms of racial insensitivity. On Sunday night, the Klobuchar campaign canceled a Twin Cities homecoming rally after an extended disruption by Black Lives Matter activists.
“I think there was a light shone on the lack of a strong connection she’s had with communities of color in our state. It’s been magnified in a big and public way,” said Kenza Hadj-Moussa, spokeswoman for TakeAction Minnesota, a grassroots organizing group that has endorsed Sanders. “That’s not to say candidates can’t grow in this analysis, and build or rebuild relationships.”
But the greatest pressure facing Klobuchar in the last few days of her campaign was that she simply had no path to victory.