When Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar announced she was running for president a year ago, my first thought was, interesting, but let’s see if she gets past the gauntlet.
After all, at one point there were 29 Democratic presidential candidates lined up to take on Trump. My question was whether Klobuchar would last long enough to even be heard.
A year later, Klobuchar is not only still standing among the 11 remaining candidates, but she’s among the front runners, finishing third in the New Hampshire primary.
If she were to win, Klobuchar would be the first Minnesotan ever to serve as president. She is the latest in a long line of Minnesotans to run for president. With her success in New Hampshire, she also is among the most successful. Republican Tim Pawlenty didn’t even make it to the 2012 Iowa caucuses before dropping out.
The only two who went farther were former vice presidents Walter Mondale and Hubert Humphrey. Mondale was the Democratic nominee in 1984, but lost to incumbent Ronald Reagan in the second largest electoral college landslide in U.S. history. Mondale managed to win his home state and Washington, D.C.
While Humphrey didn’t lose in a landslide to Richard Nixon in 1968, managing to win much of the northeast as well as Minnesota and Oregon, he still fell well short.
Does Klobuchar have a shot at doing what Humphrey and Mondale could not? Ironically, it’s not really up to her.
I’m convinced that those running for president don’t really control their own fate. I remember in school the idea of students saying, “One day I’ll be president.” It’s kind of like saying, “One day I will be a movie star.” You may have all the ambition and acting prowess in the world, but if you don’t “look the part” you are not going to get the roles in Hollywood movies. For example, presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg has loaded the airwaves, and I can’t even find out how he did in the New Hampshire primary because he received so few votes.
Klobuchar may look the part. I say may, because I’m not exactly sure what the voters of this country want these days. If I knew that, I would be a multibillionaire living on my own island, and not writing this column for you hearty west-central Minnesota folks.
That said, here are a few things Klobuchar has going for her:
• Pointing out the obvious, she is female. Democratic Party leaders have wanted a female president for a long time. Their obsession with it, in fact, was what led them to crown Hilary Clinton four years ago, clearly a bad decision. Which comes to my next point.
• She has a relatively small amount of baggage. The biggest controversy in her political career were stories that she mistreated staff members. Yes, she should be nicer to her staff. But let’s put this in perspective. Trump is setting a record for staff turnover during his tenure as president. You think he’s easy to work for?
I’m also sure someone will dig up some case that she screwed up while working as Hennepin County attorney or something. Again, compared to past presidential candidates, including a few that have one, Klobuchar’s traveling light.
• She’s relatively young, but not too young. At 59, she certainly has plenty of work life in her compared to the geezers running against her. On the other hand, she has been in the Senate for nearly 12 years, and won’t get the kind of criticism about being wet behind the ears that Barack Obama received.
• She’s attractive. It’s not fun to have to include this in this day and age. But it still counts.
• She’s a moderate. While she’s definitely liberal, Klobuchar also doesn’t believe we should provide free college for everyone, shut down all health insurance companies and create a new government health care program, or order the shutdown of all cars and power plants immediately. Extreme positions impress those who are involved in politics at this stage of the game, but the average voter isn’t likely to sign off on such positions.
• She’s funny. This is from personal experience. I went to an event where both she and Al Franken were speaking. Franken, as you may recall, was a writer for Saturday Night Live. Klobuchar was funnier than he was. I really hope she gets a chance to show this during the campaign, particularly if she gets to debate Trump. No matter what your feelings toward him, you have to admit he deserves to be the butt of a joke or two, don’t you?
All of this could be for naught, of course. Klobuchar may bomb out in Nevada or South Carolina, and abruptly end her campaign. For the sake of putting another Minnesota note in Wikipedia, let’s hope she hangs on longer.
Joel Myhre is a Fergus Falls resident and columnist.