With temperatures hovering in the teens, hundreds of supporters gathered in heavy snowfall along the Mississippi River on Sunday to watch Sen. Amy Klobuchar join a crowded field of candidates vying for the Democrats’ 2020 presidential nomination.
Klobuchar, 58, a three-term senator and the first woman elected to the Senate from Minnesota, is relying on her Midwestern roots and outspoken criticism of the Trump administration to make her competitive in key battleground states that Trump won in 2016.
Delivering a blue-collar speech in the language of Midwesterners, and with snow collecting on her hatless head, Klobuchar portrayed the mighty Mississippi as a metaphor for American struggles for liberty and justice, where “everyone matters.” She noted the Native American origin of the name of the river that divides the country geographically, running from north to south.
Klobuchar paid tribute to her grandfather, who worked as a miner and didn’t finish school, and her immigrant ancestors who arrived in the U.S. “with nothing but a suitcase.”
“It was cold,” Klobuchar said. “OK, maybe not as cold as this.”
The senator talked about how her community rallied to rebuild the I-35W bridge that collapsed in Minneapolis in 2007, killing 13 and injuring many more. But she also noted that a “sense of community is fracturing across our nation right now.”
“We are tired of the shutdowns and the showdowns, of the gridlock and the grandstanding,” Klobuchar said.
Other topics she covered included economic inequality, the “disruptive nature” of new technologies, and comprehensive immigration reform. She promised to overturn Citizens United, promote automatic voter registration, and push for universal healthcare, although in the past she has stopped short of publicly supporting Medicare for All, unlike some of her Democratic challengers.
On climate change, Klobuchar promised if elected to reinstate in the first 100 days clean power rules and gas mileage standards, and to “put forth sweeping legislation to invest in green jobs and infrastructure.”
She vowed to rejoin the international agreement on climate on her first day in office.
Klobuchar called for universal background checks for gun owners and common sense gun legislation. “It is time, America,” she said.
On the country’s relationships with its allies, she noted, “They deserve better than foreign policy by tweet.”
Later, she said her administration would “stop the fearmongering and stop the hate.”
One thing Klobuchar did not mention in her speech are reports this week that she has a history of mistreating her staff. On Wednesday, HuffPost reported that three people had withdrawn their names from consideration to lead her presidential campaign. Former staffers told the news site that Klobuchar is “prone to bursts of cruelty that make it difficult to work in her office for long.”
BuzzFeed added to that reporting on Friday:
But behind the doors of her Washington, DC, office, the Minnesota Democrat ran a workplace controlled by fear, anger, and shame, according to interviews with eight former staffers, one that many employees found intolerably cruel. She demeaned and berated her staff almost daily, subjecting them to bouts of explosive rage and regular humiliation within the office, according to interviews and dozens of emails reviewed by BuzzFeed News.
That anger regularly left employees in tears, four former staffers said. She yelled, threw papers, and sometimes even hurled objects; one aide was accidentally hit with a flying binder, according to someone who saw it happen, though the staffer said the senator did not intend to hit anyone with the binder when she threw it.
In response, a campaign spokesperson noted to BuzzFeed that many people on her staff have remained for years, including her chief of staff, state director, and political adviser. Other staffers have defended her, with one telling BuzzFeed that, “Amy was one of the best bosses I’ve had.”
HuffPost also reported that former Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid spoke privately to Klobuchar in 2015 to urge her to stop mistreating staff. Reid has since defended Klobuchar as one of the “hardest-working members of the Senate.”
Despite all of this, the senator remains popular among many of her Minnesota constituents. She is seen as somewhat of a “moderate” who gained national recognition for her tough questioning during the confirmation hearing of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, USA Today reported.
While she has supported limiting big money’s influence in politics, she reported more than $635,000 in corporate PAC contributions in her 2018 re-election campaign.
And according to FiveThirtyEight, Klobuchar has voted in line with Donald Trump’s position 31.5% of the time, which USA Today noted is the “highest among the five other Democratic senators officially running in the primary so far.”
Nevertheless, Klobuchar told supporters in the heartland that she promised to govern with heart and grit. “I don’t come from money,” she said. “But what I do have is this: I have grit.”
Update, Sunday, 5:16 p.m.: President Donald Trump responded on Twitter much more quickly Sunday to Sen. Klobuchar’s announcement than he did on Saturday when Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced her presidential run.
While Trump’s criticism of Klobuchar wasn’t as disgracefully racist as mocking Native American genocide, it was equally idiotic, proving once again that none of the president’s “jokes” are even remotely funny.