Welcome to a special edition of Hot Dish, the Star Tribune's weekday newsletter on all things Minnesota politics. We're publishing special editions through the weekend ahead of the Iowa caucuses. You can sign up for daily dispatches straight to your inbox at www. startribune.com/hotdishpolitics.
Good morning from a van on I-80. As I write this, I'm en route to the eastern Iowa city of Bettendorf for Amy Klobuchar's first campaign event of the day. The Minnesota senator has returned to the Hawkeye State from Washington to spend the day criss-crossing Iowa in a final blitz before Monday's caucus.
Here's a look at the planned itinerary:
10:00 AM: Crawford Brew Works in Bettendorf
2:00 PM: The Marquee in Sioux City
5:30PM Cedar Falls Women's Club in Cedar Falls
8:30 PM: Franklin Jr. High in Beaverdale
Those with an understanding of Iowa geography will recognize that this is quite the trek. We're talking hundreds of miles (Google map says the full journey would take about 13 hours by car). I'll be embedded with the campaign, traveling by plane between some of the longer treks. Pat Condon and Glen Stubbe will be at several of the events today, too.
For today's paper, I talked to Minnesotans flooding the state for their candidate of choice. Some have been coming for weeks. Klobuchar in particular has gotten a hand from elected officials back home who are backing her bid. In addition to the extra manpower, the surrogates help candidates connect with voters they might not otherwise reach. DFL state Sen. Melisa Franzen, who came down to phone-bank with Sen. Karla Bigham recently, told me she's done Spanish-language interviews here. Franzen's also been lobbying a constituency with which she might have some extra sway: her husband's family.
"I tried to get my brother-in-law to get his parents to caucus for Amy and he's working on that," she told me this week. "It's a family affair."
Surrogates have become particularly important for Klobuchar and other U.S. senators who spent the week in Washington for the impeachment trial as their rivals hit the trail to make closing arguments to Iowans.
Klobuchar's line-up of prominent campaign subs Friday included St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter and Duluth Mayor Emily Larson, who I caught up with at a coffee shop in Ames. Iowa state Rep. Ross Wilburn was also on hand for the event.
Wilburn told me many Iowans tell him Klobuchar is "in their top two." The race feels very much in flux. He estimates that about half of all caucusgoers who "walk into the caucus site are not going to be certain" of who they'll back."
"I hear in the rural parts of Iowa that people are really talking about her," he said. "She's gaining momentum and this is the time when you really want to gain momentum."
We'll get a better sense of whether that momentum is real tonight, when the final Iowa Poll drops at 7 p.m.
Wilburn is one of at least 18 sitting state legislators backing Klobuchar's bid -- a tally the campaign says is the most of any candidate. The former Kamala Harris supporter announced his endorsement just last week. Speaking to a small group gathered at a coffee shop in Ames on Friday, he told a story that underscored the time and resources Klobuchar has poured into the state over the last year: Last July, she showed up to help him campaign for an open state House seat, even after his potential Republican opponent dropped out.
"She came anyway," he told me after the event. "she made a commitment and she followed through with it and that builds trust and appreciation."
We'll have more stories from the trail throughout the weekend. For now, here's a look at some other stories from caucusland that might be of interest to Minnesota readers:
- Klobuchar Faces Uproar Over Her Role in Black Teenager’s Murder Conviction. The jury foreman now says he feels they were misled.
- Ilhan Omar takes Bernie Sanders's message to Iowa mosque
- A look at the state of the 2020 Democratic primary money race -- Klobuchar ended the year with about $5 million cash on hand, Politico notes.
- -Klobuchar picked up another newspaper endorsement, this one from the Iowa City Press-Citizen.
And in non-caucus news, we've got toplines from Minnesota state and federal campaign finance reports due yesterday and an overview of the Senate DFL leadership fight expected to come to a head at a closed-door caucus meeting this morning. Follow Briana Bierschbach for live updates from that vote.
That's all for today. See you back here tomorrow!