Against a wintry Minneapolis backdrop, Amy Klobuchar announced her run for President on Sunday with a vow to “heal the heart of our democracy” and an emphasis on her Minnesota roots.
“As president, I will look you in the eye,” Klobuchar said, her hair thick with falling snow by the end of her speech at Boom Island Park. “I will tell you what I think. I will focus on getting things done. That’s what I’ve done my whole life.”
By officially joining the fray, Klobuchar enters into competition with a growing roster of Democrats who want to challenge President Donald Trump in 2020. Her speech alternated between personal biography and statements of principle. She argued that her own life and political experience put her in the best position to tackle an ambitious agenda from the White House.
“I’m running for this job for every person who wants their work recognized and rewarded,” Klobuchar said. “I’m running for every parent who wants a better world for their kids. … For every American. I’m running for you.”
The Minneapolis skyline framed the stage but at times was barely visible through the heavy snow. Teams of volunteers passed out hot chocolate and hand warmers, and fires burned in several pits scattered around the site, giving the rally a campfire smell.
In the 20-minute speech, Klobuchar called for universal health care, cheaper prescription drugs, comprehensive immigration reform, an end to fearmongering and hate, a more stable foreign policy and stronger ties with allies, action against climate change, universal background checks on gun sales, a constitutional amendment to limit corporate political donations, automatic voter registration for all 18-year-olds, stronger data privacy and full nationwide internet connectivity.
Even as Klobuchar ramped up for her presidential launch in recent days, stories by several online news outlets detailed anonymous allegations by some former aides of abusive or demeaning treatment by Klobuchar. She was asked about the reports in a brief question-and-answer session with reporters after the speech.
“Yes, I can be tough, and yes, I can push people. I know that,” she said, as her husband and daughter stood alongside her. “But in the end, there are so many great stories of our staff, who have been with me for years, that have gone on to do incredible things. I have high expectations for myself, I have high expectations for the people that work for me, I have high expectations for this country.”
Of course, weather
The heavy snow that fell before and during Klobuchar’s speech handed her and other speakers lots of weather-related laugh lines. Just about the only people present with uncovered heads were a handful of politicians.
And it was the weather that provided reaction fodder for Klobuchar’s potential rival, who tweeted about her for the first time ever shortly after the speech. Trump noted Klobuchar’s discussion of climate change and, as he has previously, suggested in his tweet that the wintry weather disproves it. Climate scientists don’t share that assessment.
“By the end of her speech, she looked like a Snowman(woman)!” Trump tweeted.
Klobuchar fired back with a sense of humor, tweeting: “Science is on my side” and asking: “I wonder how your hair would fare in a blizzard?”
Klobuchar did offer the first steps she’d take as president to fight climate change. She said she would reinstate clean power rules and gas mileage standards, and propose investments in green jobs and infrastructure in the first 100 days after she takes office. On the first day she takes office, she said, she would rejoin the Paris climate agreement.
The speech was thick with Minnesota references. Klobuchar talked of her grandfather’s life on the Iron Range, where he worked underground in a mine. She talked of growing up in the Twin Cities, the daughter of a schoolteacher and a journalist (her father, Jim Klobuchar, was a longtime Star Tribune columnist). Now 90, Jim Klobuchar was at the speech.
Klobuchar also spoke about the collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis, which happened about eight months after she joined the Senate. She talked of helping secure funds to rebuild it, and she related stories of heroism from that day.
“That’s community, that’s a shared story, that’s ordinary people doing extraordinary things,” she said. “That sense of community is fractured across our nation, worn down by the petty and vicious nature of our politics.”
Noting her own family’s immigrant roots, Klobuchar also paid tribute to Minnesota’s large Somali-American community.
“We may come from different places,” she said. “We may pray in different ways. We may look different. And love different. But all live in the same country of shared dreams.”
Republicans offered a rapid critique. “Klobuchar appears to want to position herself as a moderate from heartland USA in a party that is rapidly embracing Socialism,” read a statement from Minnesota Republican Party Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan.
A different style
A group of prominent Minnesota Democrats warmed up the crowd, many pointing out contrasts between Klobuchar and Trump. Gov. Tim Walz said her candidacy offered America “the opportunity to replace chaos with courage.”
Supporters interviewed at the rally, bundled in layers and stamping their feet to keep warm, praised Klobuchar for a conciliatory political style.
“She’s a pragmatic progressive, emphasis on the pragmatic,” said Mike Erickson, 64, of Anoka. “Both parties are going to the extremes, and she’s more moderate and realistic.”
Amanda Nelson, 27, said she wants to see Klobuchar succeed but is unsure of her path to victory in an increasingly crowded Democratic field, which still could grow to include former Vice President Joe Biden and others.
“I think there’s a lot of emphasis on West and East Coast politicians, not so much from the Midwest,” Nelson said. “So I’m wondering if that will be a problem for name recognition.”
The crowd was not free of critics. Mike Madden, 63, a carpenter from St. Paul, carried a sign that read, “No war 2020. No Klobuchar.”
“She’s too hawkish” on foreign policy, he said. He is supporting Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren in the Democratic race.
In addition to frequent Minnesota mentions, Klobuchar peppered her speech with references to the “heartland” and other Midwestern states. She told reporters after the event that her first stops as a presidential candidate would be next weekend, when she heads to Iowa, with its first-in-the-nation presidential caucus next February; and to Wisconsin, which Democrat Hillary Clinton unexpectedly lost in the 2016 presidential race.
“We’re starting in Wisconsin because, as you remember, there wasn’t a lot of campaigning in Wisconsin in 2016,” said Klobuchar, who noted that her mother was from Wisconsin. “With me, that changes.”
Klobuchar, whose campaign will be headquartered in Minneapolis, asked for help from those at the rally.
“I don’t have a political machine,” she said. “I don’t come from money. But what I do have is this: I have grit.”