On the first weekend of 2020, Nevada got its first presidential candidate visit of the new year with U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar’s (D-Minnesota) criss-crossing of the state. Klobuchar met with voters in the Carson Valley (Douglas County) and Reno this morning, then met with some more voters at her Las Vegas campaign office.
We caught up with Klobuchar at her Las Vegas office to see how she’s making progress. While her rally wasn’t the glitziest or flashiest we’ve seen thus far this cycle, she did attract the kind of turnout that suggests that maybe, just maybe, she might have the kind of staying power that outlasts such glitz and flash.
Wait, Amy Klobuchar is still running?
Ever since her breakout performance at the MSNBC-Washington Post Debate last November, Senator Amy Klobuchar has finally had a moment. Not only did she continue her debate stage momentum at the PBS-Politico Debate two weeks ago, but Klobuchar has gradually been inching upwards in some Iowa polls and she’s so far the only non “Top Four” contender to qualify for the CNN-Des Moines Register Debate in Iowa on January 14.
But as I noted my last Nevada Caucus Power Rankings, Klobuchar only began staffing up here last November, long after the “Top Four” (former Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders [I-Vermont] and Elizabeth Warren [D-Massachusetts], and former South Bend [Indiana] Mayor Pete Buttigieg) and some low-pollers had already built up their respective Nevada operations.
Today, I made it to Klobuchar’s Las Vegas office near Summerlin to see how she’s catching up. Suffice to say, she did manage to fill up a courtyard, which is more than what we’ve seen at certain other campaigns’ events over the past year.
“At its core, it’s a decency check. It’s a values check. It’s a patriotism check.”
– Amy Klobuchar
Speaking to a crowd of just over 100, Klobuchar got going with a quick rundown on what’s happening with President Donald Trump’s impeachment. As of today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) continues to withhold transmission of the House’s articles of impeachment to the Senate unless and until U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) agrees to call witnesses and generally guarantees a fair trial.
As Klobuchar told the crowd, “We’re very disappointed that Leader McConnell is not allowing witnesses.” She then fired back against Republican accusations of Democrats using impeachment as a “witch hunt” and declared, “This is not a fishing expedition. This is a very somber trial.”
Klobuchar then used this to pivot to the matter of this year’s election. On the potential impeachment trial, she said, “I have an important role to play. But you are going to be a jury, too. You will decide who will be our nominee. […] Nevada will be a very important state.”
Speaking on the reasons why Trump has been impeached and the reason why she wants him defeated this fall, Klobuchar stated, “At its core, it’s a decency check. It’s a values check. It’s a patriotism check.” And on patriotism, Klobuchar condemned Trump’s willingness to side with Russian President Vladimir Putin and his global network of oligarchs over U.S. national security. On Putin’s influence over American politics and government, Klobuchar lamented, “They didn’t use a tank or a missile. They used a cyber attack, and they went after our very democracy.”
“He threatened all-out war without seeking authorization for military force. That is wrong. That is illegal.”
– Amy Klobuchar, on Trump’s recent actions in Iran and Iraq
Staying on foreign policy, Klobuchar made some news after the rally, when she took some questions from reporters inside her campaign office. In the wake of Trump’s ordering of the assassination of Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani on Iraqi soil, Klobuchar and all other Democratic candidates are facing questions on whether they will end the nearly two decades’ worth of “forever wars” and executive military actions that seem to add to the pile of such “forever wars”.
When asked whether a President Klobuchar would have done what Trump has done in unilaterally attacking an Iranian military leader in another foreign country, she sidestepped and said she wants the White House to brief Congress on what they’ve done. Instead, Klobuchar honed in on Trump’s conduct in the wake of Soleimani’s death: “I am really concerned that he did not think through the repercussions of this. […] What I am really concerned about is what he’s doing today, where by tweet he is threatening to go to war.”
And when asked whether Klobuchar supports repeal of the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force that three presidents (George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump) have cited as justification for over 36 military actions in 17 countries, Klobuchar quipped, “He can not use that for what he’s doing right now [in Iraq and Iran].” She did, however, condemn Trump’s move to initiate war without Congressional approval: “He threatened all-out war without seeking authorization for military force. That is wrong. That is illegal.”
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-California), who cast the sole vote against the 2001 AUMF, has condemned both the Soleimani execution and the ongoing trend of presidents citing “executive power” to conduct war-esque military missions. She’s introduced legislation to repeal that 2001 AUMF, and Senator Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) has a more targeted bill to prevent Trump from initiating a war on Iran without Congressional approval.
“We need a big coalition that will bring people in, not shut them out.”
– Amy Klobuchar
Thus far, while Klobuchar and some other Democrats are cautiously assessing the aftermath of Trump’s actions in Iran and Iraq, fellow Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have more unequivocally condemned any possible effort to draw the U.S. into war with Iran. And overall, we’ve seen more division between the Warren-Sanders progressive wing of the Democratic Party advocating “big, structural change” and “political revolution”, and the leading centrist contenders who’ve advocated more modest “basic bargains” and “values” talks.
Klobuchar has generally aligned with the other centrists in this intra-party argument, and she subtly warned of the consequences of Sanders’ and Warren’s more strident progressive platforms when she declared, “We need a big coalition that will bring people in, not shut them out.”
Klobuchar proceeded to cite anecdotes of ex-Trump voters in her own home state of Minnesota and that other early state of New Hampshire who’ve signaled they’ll happily vote for her over Trump, and she cited more concrete data of her own 60%-36% landslide reelection in 2018 (as opposed to Hillary Clinton’s mere 46.4%-44.9% victory over Trump in Minnesota in 2016) as proof that she can maximize recent Democratic gains in cities and suburbs while also winning back rural and “small town” areas that shifted hard to Trump in 2016.
As Klobuchar put it, “We won the rural areas. We won the suburbs. We won big in the urban areas.” She continued, “If you want to build that coalition, like we’ve seen across the country, come with us.”
“What good is the progressive label if you can’t make progress?”
– Amy Klobuchar
So far, Klobuchar and the other Democratic moderates have claimed that Warren and Sanders won’t have the kind of broader appeal necessary to win a general election, but progressives in the party have retorted that Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg lack the kind of energy and excitement that Democrats will need to motivate the base and persuade others to turn out in big numbers to defeat Trump. When asked after the rally how she’ll appeal to voters who’ve thus far shown more enthusiasm for Sanders and Warren, Klobuchar cited various centrist Democratic candidates’ victories in 2018 (including her own) as proof that the entire Democratic Party will turn out in full force for her.
According to Klobuchar, “I am a proven progressive. What does that mean? I’ve actually made progress.” She then added some specifics while tossing a tad more shade at Warren and Sanders: “I’ve passed over 100 bills as the lead Democrat, including on matters like rural broadband and drug shortages and infrastructure funding. And I think that’s important. What good is the progressive label if you can’t make progress?”
Then, I asked about a related matter that we discussed at length last November: How will she appeal to the voters of color who comprise the heart and soul of the Democratic Party? Klobuchar responded that she’s put in the effort to hire diverse staff and attract diverse audiences here in Nevada. And perhaps in an effort to contrast Buttigieg’s ongoing difficulties with voters of color with her own record, Klobuchar noted, “I am someone who doesn’t just go out and say talking points. I am someone who’s stood up for the African-American community in my state, and the immigrant community.”
“You do not go in with a sense of entitlement. You go in with an obligation. You lift people up.”
– Amy Klobuchar
As she did at her Las Vegas town hall last April and her appearance at the Nevada Rural Democratic Caucus’ virtual town hall last July, Klobuchar came armed today with a list of bills and amendments she’s worked on, legislation on everything from gun violence prevention to prescription drug costs and mental health care, as further proof that she means what she says and says what she means.
Klobuchar also used her track record to contrast her actual accomplishments with Trump’s endless bluster. In a moment that evoked one of the more famous campaign trail applause lines of Senator Kamala Harris (D-California), Klobuchar stated, “You do not go in with a sense of entitlement. You go in with an obligation. You lift people up.”
If there’s one common thread among all the Democratic women who’ve been running for president this cycle, it’s the effort to demonstrate to voters that they truly care and that they’re committed to delivering the goods. Or as Klobuchar herself said in closing her rally, “You are the guardian angels of our democracy because you understand, in the words of John McCain [R-Arizona], there is nothing more liberating than fighting for a cause larger than yourself.”