Minnesota U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar ended her yearlong quest for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination on March 2, the day before the Super Tuesday primaries. We talked to her last week about how it went. (Interview edited for length and clarity):
Q: Have you started to get your life back?
A: Yes. John [husband John Bessler] and I went to see the movie “Emma.” I didn’t look at my phone, so that was good. We saw some friends. It’s such a transition, you know. But the good news is, on the Senate side, I’ve been going back quite a bit [to Washington]. So that felt pretty normal.
Q: You outlasted some bigger-name rivals. Did that make it harder to quit?
A: Yeah. Because we clearly had something going there. I always had thought if I had more money early on, that we might have been able to be where we were after New Hampshire a few months back. After that, we got all that money in, and we were able to get operations in all the Super Tuesday states — small, but we had them. But time was not our friend at that point. Even though it ended shortly thereafter, there was a sense that more and more people were getting to know me. That’s why it was hard to end, because we felt like what was happening those last few weeks, we had wanted to have happen four months before.
Q: When did you know it was time to leave the race?
A: First of all, I always knew Nevada and South Carolina would not be easy for us. But then I thought OK, we’ll just pivot to the Super Tuesday states. And so when I kept seeing the numbers in the Super Tuesday states, that, you know — there’d be these moments like we’d see [a poll in] Washington state, and we’d be third. So there’d be these moments like that. But overall it seemed like, it was going to be hard to win a huge amount of delegates. I knew we were going to [win] Minnesota. We saw our polls and the public ones. And I thought, OK, that would be a good personal victory. But for what? Just to say I won it? And so I decided, why not use the power I had to make sure the candidate I thought would be good would win?
Q: Elizabeth Warren has dropped out as well. The Democratic nominee won’t be a woman — what does that tell you about the obstacles facing women who run for president?
A: I think we actually advanced the cause, just like Hillary [Clinton] did. Hillary broke many glass ceilings, because all these people ran after her and won, for House and Senate. I was in that first debate, that first night, and in that debate there were three women — Elizabeth, me and Tulsi [Gabbard]. We doubled, in one night, the number of women who had been in a Democratic primary debate for president. I think we made a big change for women wanting to run, I really do. I did realize, and Hillary talked about it, how different it is for women running than for men. Someone once said that men can run on their potential but women have to run on their record. I guess what that means is women have to show they accomplish things. You saw a lot of the women candidates showing they had won races, like me, or gotten bills passed. I was probably the ultimate example of that.
Q: Do you expect to see a woman president in your lifetime?
A: I do, or I wouldn’t have done this. I am 100% sure it will happen.
Q: You faced criticism for your record as a prosecutor in the late ’90s, early 2000s. That was always seen as a political asset for you. Are we at a point in Democratic politics where it’s not anymore?
A: I hope not. As I’ve said many times, I’m proud of the work we did there. I think one of the arguments, as we look at a major shift in criminal justice reform, which we started with the First Step Act, is actually having someone with that background, who has shown a propensity, like I have, for reform. It doesn’t mean you agree with everything I’ve ever done, it’s just that I have the expertise to usher in some reform. What I hope is it’s seen as an asset, at some point. And I don’t think it was a big determining factor. I think I just had to explain it. Because, you know, as there was more and more scrutiny, we were still going up at that time.
Q: Any regrets? Anything you’d do differently?
A: As you know, I had traveled a lot and helped other candidates in other states. I did over 35 state conventions and dinners over the last decade. That was good. I wish when I had gone to those states that I’d been thinking ahead a little more to set up a network of supporters. I would just come in, do the dinner, be the team player and I wasn’t always thinking strategically who I wanted to keep up connections with. Because that’s how you help people know who you are. I wish I had done more of that and that’s something I’ll continue to do in the future.
Q: Your quick endorsement of Joe Biden fueled talk of you joining his ticket. Are you interested in that?
A: I never do hypotheticals. I’m just right now focused on helping him win. I’m helping him and focused on the work in the Senate.