Amy Klobuchar vows to defeat Donald Trump after strong showing in New Hampshire primary
12 February 2020, 14:04
The senator looked set to finish ahead of the likes of Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden in the state contest.
Little-known Democratic presidential hopeful Amy Klobuchar has broken into the top tier of the 2020 campaign in the New Hampshire primary and now has less than two weeks to make it count.
The Minnesota senator on Tuesday immediately worked to turn her better-than-expected night into enough momentum to be competitive in next-up Nevada and beyond.
For Ms Klobuchar, that means consolidating establishment and moderate voters, picking up traction with black and Latino Democrats and introducing herself to most everyone else.
“Hello, America!” she shouted over a cheering crowd at a campaign party in Concord as she was on track to finish in third place.
“I’m Amy Klobuchar, and I will beat Donald Trump.”
A third-place finish counted as a victory for a candidate who spent much of the campaign boasting about being in the “top five” of the crowded field.
Ms Klobuchar used the moment to put her no-nonsense appeal in the spotlight.
She spoke of growing up the granddaughter of an iron ore miner, becoming the first female senator from Minnesota and defying expectations in the 2020 race.
She pledged to bring her green campaign bus to Nevada and around the country, and to win the nomination.
The senator appeared to benefit Tuesday from former Vice President Joe Biden’s sliding support, picking up moderate and conservative voters looking for an alternative to liberal Senator Bernie Sanders, the New Hampshire winner, and rejecting political newcomer and second-place finisher Pete Buttigieg.
But Ms Klobuchar’s quest is still an uphill climb.
The senator has focused almost all her time and campaign resources in Iowa and New Hampshire, building only spare operations in the states that follow on the primary calendar.
She has polled poorly among minority voters, a big obstacle in more diverse states like Nevada and South Carolina.
Although she will likely see a bump in support, a surge of donations and new media attention, Ms Klobuchar’s challenge is to set up the infrastructure to capitalise on her moment.
She is starting from behind.
Ms Klobuchar’s Nevada team was not hired until last autumn and numbered fewer than a dozen until the campaign redeployed staff from Iowa last week, giving her about 30 people on the ground.
Mr Sanders, who essentially tied Mr Buttigieg in Iowa, has been organising in Nevada since April 2019 and has over 250 staff in the state.
Mr Biden has over 80, Mr Buttigieg has over 65 and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren has over 50.
Ms Klobuchar is now hoping the appeal that worked for her in New Hampshire will have a similar impact in Nevada on February 22.
The three-term senator campaigned as someone who has won even in conservative areas and who could draw support from Democrats, independents and disaffected Republicans to beat Mr Trump.
She also points to her record of getting things done in Washington and argues that proposals like Medicare For All, backed by Mr Sanders and Ms Warren, are nonstarters in the Senate.
But it was Ms Klobuchar’s debate performance that appeared to have the biggest impact on her showing on Tuesday.
More than half of Ms Klobuchar’s supporters made up their minds in the last few days, a survey of more than 3,000 Democratic primary voters in New Hampshire conducted for The Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago.
Ms Klobuchar went on the attack against Mr Buttigieg and delivered a passionate closing promise to fight for the voters who do not feel seen or heard by politicians in Washington.
Those selling points helped convince voters like Linda Muchemore, a retiree from Greenland, New Hampshire, who settled on Ms Klobuchar last week after leaning toward Ms Warren.
Ms Klobuchar’s record in the Senate “spoke to me of somebody who could maybe heal the animosity we have”, Ms Muchemore said.
“I found out that I’m not as liberal as I thought I was.
“Those moderate plans that Amy has speak more to me than Elizabeth’s more radical, Bernie plans.”
Ms Klobuchar’s late surge over Ms Warren was a surprise twist in the race.
Ms Warren, from neighbouring Massachusetts, has been leading in the polling, but both women have struggled to convince voters that a woman can win.
On Tuesday night, Ms Warren congratulated Ms Klobuchar, “my friend and colleague”, and noted how wrong pundits are “when they count us out”.
Ms Klobuchar responded to “my friend Elizabeth” soon after.
“People told me just like they told her that they didn’t think a woman could be elected,” she said.
“In my case it was elected to the US Senate.
“No woman had ever done it before.
“But I came back, I defied expectations, and I won.”