Sen. Amy Klobuchar announced her presidential bid at a snowy, freezing outdoor event on Sunday, vaulting the three-term senator from Minnesota into the crowded field of Democrats angling to take on President Donald Trump in 2020.
Standing in the snow in Minneapolis, she said, “On an island in the middle of the mighty Mississippi, in our nation’s heartland, at a time when we must heal the heart of our democracy and renew our commitment to the common good, I stand before you as the granddaughter of an iron ore miner, the daughter of a teacher and a newspaperman, the first woman elected to the United States Senate from the State of Minnesota, to announce my candidacy for President of the United States.”
“That sense of community is fracturing across our nation right now, worn down by the petty and vicious nature of our politics. We are all tired of the shutdowns and the showdowns, the gridlock and the grandstanding,” she told supporters who gathered on Boom Island, a park that juts into the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, to witness the moment.
“Today we say enough is enough. Our nation must be governed not from chaos but from opportunity,” she said. “Not by wallowing over what’s wrong, but by marching inexorably toward what’s right.”
In her speech, Klobuchar also took a swipe at officials in Washington, promising that her honesty will set her apart from them.
“I promise you this: As your President, I will look you in the eye. I will tell you what I think. I will focus on getting things done. That’s what I’ve done my whole life. And no matter what, I’ll lead from the heart,” she said.
“Let me be blunt: for too long leaders in Washington have sat on the sidelines while others try to figure out what to do about our changing economy and its impact on our lives, what to do about the disruptive nature of new technologies, income inequality, the political and geographic divides, the changing climate, the tumult in our world. For a moment, let’s stop seeing those obstacles as obstacles on our path. Let’s see those obstacles as our path.”
The senator also went after Trump without mentioning him by name, criticizing the President’s foreign policy and use of Twitter.
“We need to stand strong — and consistently — with our allies. We need to be clear in our purpose. We must respect our front line troops, diplomats and intelligence officers… who are out there every day risking their lives for us … they deserve better than foreign policy by tweet,” she said.
“The people from the Heartland believe in hard work, telling it like it is, and getting things done,” Klobuchar says in the invite to her event. “That’s true in Minnesota where I grew up, and that’s true across the border in Iowa. We have a lot to get done in the days, weeks, and months ahead.”
Klobuchar’s speech on Sunday will lean heavily into her Minnesota roots, including the grit that it takes to draw people to a political event in sub-freezing weather.
“I’m asking you to join us on this campaign. It’s a homegrown one. I don’t have a political machine. I don’t come from money,” Klobuchar will say according to excerpts of her prepared remarks. “But what I do have is this: I have grit. I have family. I have friends. I have neighbors. I have all of you who are willing to come out in the middle of the winter, all of you who took the time to watch us today, all of you who are willing to stand up and say people matter.”
Minneapolis and the nearby Mississippi River will also play a central role in Klobuchar’s speech, according to an adviser.
“There is quite a bit of, a lot of meaning behind where she is doing this,” the adviser said. Klobuchar will be “thinking about how the Mississippi starts in Northern Minnesota and how it runs through the heartland and will talk about how this connects our country in so many ways.”
Klobuchar will say, “The Mississippi River… all our rivers connect us… to one another. To our shared story. For that is how this country was founded, with patriots who saw more that united them than divided them.”
Klobuchar’s desire to run as a Minnesotan and Midwesterner was on full display Sunday as snow blanketed the ground for her outdoor announcement. The weather was forecast to be 15 degrees and snowy when the senator hits the stage.
Snow blowers cleared the stage multiple times before the event and volunteers were frantically working to shovel walkways for people. The skyline of Minneapolis was barely visible behind the stage and the banks of the freezing Mississippi River are covered in snow.
Klobuchar’s team ordered 100 gallons of hot cocoa and 100 gallons of apple cider to prepare for the event and volunteers handed out small American flags and packs of Little Hotties hand warmers as people entered the park.
Most attendees were unphased by the weather — and gave Klobuchar credit for announcing outside in February.
“It just truly represents Minnesota,” said Renee Anderson, a 22-year old from Bloomington. “If somebody doesn’t want to come to an event that is outside in Minnesota, do they really live here? Are they really excited?”
Scott Herzog, a 50-year-old manufacturer from West St. Paul, said the same as he stood in front of the stage two hours before the event starts: “This is true Minnesota: Snow and Amy Klobuchar.”
Klobuchar will follow up her event in Minnesota with a trip to Iowa on February 21, where she will speak at the Ankeny Area Democrats Winter Banquet and Fundraiser.
Klobuchar’s presidential aspirations have not been a secret to many in her home state and around Washington.
“She’s going to do it,” former Vice President Walter Mondale told KFGO on Thursday. “I’m very positive that she will run and announce on Sunday. I think she’s got a real shot here.”
Klobuchar told reporters in early January that she was “getting close to a decision” about running for president in 2020.
“I’m continuing to talk to people about it,” she said.
She told CNN in late December 2018 that it was a “big decision” because there are “a lot of different people running.”
“I think you want voices from places where Donald Trump did very well,” she said. “My state, for instance, he almost won in 2016, and we came roaring back in 2018. I was leading the ticket, and I believe you need people that will go not just where it’s comfortable, but where it’s uncomfortable and be willing to work with other people that you don’t always agree with for the betterment of this country.”
A Klobuchar run, according to people who have talked to her about the prospect, would cast the senator as a deal maker who is able to get things done when things need to get done. She will cast herself as the granddaughter of rural America, someone whose life was helped by a grandfather who saved money in a coffee can to send her father, who would go on to become a journalist, to college.
Klobuchar’s team believes there is an opening in the Democratic primary for someone who is able to relate to voters in Iowa because of her local ties, but is also able to talk to Democrats eager to beat Trump in 2020 as well as win back Trump voters.
That is where Democrats believe Klobuchar’s electoral record will factor in: The senator has consistently overperformed against other Democrats in Minnesota, winning her three terms in office by an average of 26 percentage points.
Klobuchar won re-election in 2018 with 60% of the vote visiting all 87 Minnesota counties during the campaign, including 42 that went for Trump in 2016. This win helped burnish Klobuchar’s credibility with rural and lean Republican voters and will likely be the backbone of her campaign.
“She could surprise pundits here,” said Matt Paul, Hillary Clinton’s Iowa state director during the 2016 caucus. “She’s a neighbor, has long been working to elect Democrats in Iowa and established herself as a Democrat who gets things done.”
Klobuchar has a liberal voting record but is not considered as liberal as other candidates running for president or considering a 2020 run. Klobuchar does not support abolishing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency or Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Medicare-for-All bill — instead pushing to lower the age where people are allowed to buy into the government health care program.
Some Democrats question whether her more moderate voting record — she supported, for example, Trump’s nominations of Wilbur Ross, Mike Pompeo and John Kelly and a host of other nominees — is left enough to succeed in a Democratic primary. According to FiveThirtyEight’s congressional vote tracker, Klobuchar voted with Trump’s interests 31% of the time since he took office.
Born in Plymouth, Minnesota, Klobuchar returned to her home state after attending Yale University and getting her law degree at the University of Chicago. She began her career in private practice before being elected narrowly as Hennepin County attorney in 1998. She was reelected with no competition in 2002.