Sen. Klobuchar of Minn. enters presidential race


Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar today joined the growing group of Democrats jostling to be president and positioned herself as the most prominent Midwestern candidate in the field, as her party tries to win back voters in a region that helped put Donald Trump in the White House.

"For every American, I'm running for you," she told an exuberant crowd gathered on a freezing, snowy afternoon at a park along the Mississippi River with the Minneapolis skyline in the background.

"And 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," the three-term senator said.

Klobuchar, who has prided herself for achieving results through bipartisan cooperation, did not utter Trump's name during her kickoff speech, though she did bemoan the conduct of "foreign policy by tweet." She instead spoke of the need to "heal the heart of our democracy and renew our commitment to the common good."

Asserting Midwestern values, she told a crowd warmed by hot chocolate, apple cider, heat lamps and bonfires: "I don't have a political machine. I don't come from money. But what I do have is this: I have grit."

Klobuchar, who easily won a third-term last year, has pointed to her broad appeal across Minnesota as she has discussed a 2020 run. She has drawn support from voters in urban, suburban and rural areas, including in dozens of counties Trump won in 2016.

She has said that success could translate to other Midwestern states such as Michigan and Wisconsin, reliably Democratic in presidential races for decades until Trump's victory over Hillary Clinton.

She said the country's "sense of community is fracturing" today, "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."

The list of Democrats already in the race features several better-known senators with the ability to raise huge amounts of money — Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Kamala Harris of California, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.

The field soon could expand to include prominent Democrats such as former Vice President Joe Biden of Delaware and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

A Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom poll conducted by Selzer & Company in December found that Klobuchar was largely unfamiliar to likely Iowa caucus-goers, with 54 percent saying they didn't know enough about her to have an opinion, while 38 percent had a favorable opinion and 8 percent had an unfavorable opinion.

"She starts out perhaps with a better understanding of Midwestern voters, but I think she faces the same hurdles every one of them face, which is: Are Iowans going to find them either the best candidate to defeat Donald Trump or the candidate that most aligns with their ideologies and issues?" said John Norris, a longtime Iowa-based Democratic strategist. "I don't know that coming from Minnesota gives her any advantage with Iowans."

Klobuchar, 58, is known as a straight-shooting, pragmatist willing to work with Republicans, making her one of the Senate's most productive members at passing legislation.

The backdrop for her rally was the Interstate 35 bridge over the Mississippi. The span was built after the previous bridge collapsed in 2007, killing 13 people. Klobuchar had worked with then Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., to help fund the new bridge and get it completed at a faster-than-usual pace.

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