For months, Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota touted herself as the candidate of the Midwest, hoping voters in Iowa would favor her — a senator from next door — over rivals who mostly come from the East.
That plan failed. Now, in one of the unexpected twists of the 2020 campaign, Klobuchar suddenly has reason to hope that her presidential bid might be rescued by voters in New England.
The Democratic senator, who has traveled through New Hampshire rallies at a frenetic pace in recent days, aims to build on momentum that began after a much-praised debate performance on Friday. After hoping for months for a breakout moment, she’s working to convince voters — and maybe herself — that she’s hit one.
“We feel this surge,” she told a crowd of more than 150 at Keene State College on Monday morning. “For me, it’s been a long time coming.”
Two New Hampshire polls — one conducted by Emerson College and the other by Suffolk University for the Boston Globe — had her edging into third place Sunday night, trailing Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) and Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., but ahead of Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and former Vice President Joe Biden.
The polls can’t say if her upward move was merely a temporary, post-debate spike or an indication of a more lasting improvement that would run right into Tuesday’s primary, pollster David Paleologos of Suffolk noted. But Klobuchar takes it as validation of her tenacity.
“I’ve been here 23 times and I’m someone that goes slowly but surely, and we reached a point and then the debate is what really brought even more people into our camp,” she told reporters after a rally in Nashua. “But, you know, we were going up even before the debate simply through hard work.”
“I don’t have the biggest bank account in this race, I didn’t have the biggest name ID going into this, but what I have is grit,” she said at the Keene rally.
Since the debate, she said, she has raised more than $3 million in donations.
In the campaign’s closing days here, she has pitched herself as a candidate who can unify the party’s disparate factions.
“This primary is really indicative of the coalition that we need to put together in our nation,” she told a crowd at a Rotary Club in Nashua on Monday, arguing that voters are looking for “someone that can get things done.”
She frequently talks of her ability to work with both Democrats and Republicans in Congress and the support that she has garnered from voters with a wide range of political leanings.
“In every election that I’ve ever run, I have won,” she said at a rally in Nashua on Sunday, noting that she has carried red and blue districts in Minnesota. “I am the one that brings to this stage the receipts, that I have actually done it.”
On Monday, though, she intensified her criticism of her Democratic opponents, going after Sanders by name at her Nashua rally.
“When we were asked at the last debate if we thought a socialist should lead the ticket, I was the only one that raised my hand and said, ‘No, I don’t think so,’” she said. “And that doesn’t mean I’m not good friends with Bernie. I am. I just have a different philosophy than he does and a lot of it is grounded in a respect for entrepreneurship and the economy.”
Several voters who plan to vote in Tuesday’s primary said they were drawn to her experience as a legislator and to her personality.
“She’s just been so impressive in terms of the authenticity of her caring about people and also the toughness because she has a lot of experience,” Karen Jorgensen, of Henniker, N.H., said before a Klobuchar rally in Manchester on Sunday.
“She’s been in the Senate for a long time. She’s gotten through a lot of bills. And she just comes across with this authenticity and experience.”
Catherine Batora, who is from Michigan and now lives in Sandown, N.H., said she appreciated the senator’s focus on economic issues, particularly the struggles facing workers in the Midwest.
“I know those people she’s talking about,” she said. “Those are my family members, and I get why people are angry and upset.”
Some voters, however, said they remain concerned about whether she can successfully take on President Trump.
Mike Anguilo, from Manchester, who attended Sunday’s rally at Southern New Hampshire University said he appreciated her emphasis on trying to connect with voters, but was leaning toward voting for Buttigieg.
He said he thinks the former mayor might fare better against Trump in a general election.
“I think it’s an important thing that we have to really stand together to beat him,” he said.
For now, however, Klobuchar’s focus is on her hope for a strong finish in New Hampshire.
In Exeter, where she addressed hundreds of people packed into the town hall, she urged supporters to persuade their friends and neighbors to vote for her.
“If we do this right, we are gonna — as usual, New Hampshire — surprise the country,” she said.
Engelmayer is a special correspondent.