Amy Klobuchar’s results in Nevada, Feb. 22, and South Carolina, Feb. 29, will likely be more modest than her surprisingly strong finishes in New Hampshire and Iowa. Yet, the senior senator from Minnesota might have the best chance of any Democrat in America of becoming president — sooner or later.
How could that be? The Real Clear Politics average of all major polls shows her with under 5 percent support nationwide. Well, it takes a bit of odds-making, coupled with a dash of wishful thinking for Klobuchar and her staff, but it goes like this:
First, Klobuchar could still emerge from the narrowing field of Democratic contenders and win the nomination in July, especially if none of the front-runners has enough delegates to prevail on the the first ballot. A deadlocked convention seems increasingly possible, with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg dividing the early votes and former Vice President Joe Biden still garnering the most support among African-American Democrats, even as his overall campaign slumps badly. Former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, with his massive bank account, must be taken seriously.
Second, if a man is the eventual nominee, he will be compelled to select a woman as his running mate. Both Biden and Buttigieg have pretty much said that, without naming names. The likely choices: Klobuchar, or California Sen. Kamala Harris, who abandoned her own presidential campaign before Iowa. Harris would help Buttigieg with black voters, but Biden and Bloomberg wouldn’t need Harris — they’d need help in the Midwest, where Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump in 2016. That elevates Klobuchar, who has never lost an election and has served effectively in the Senate for 12 years.
Third, if Biden were to be elected president he would be 82 at the end of his first term. Bloomberg is nine months older. Although neither will concede during the campaign that they might serve only one term, either man’s vice president would be in an especially attractive position for 2024.
Fourth, should Trump win in November, especially if either Sanders or Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren turns out to be his opponent, Democrats will be devastated but also more level-headed when Trump’s second term expires. No more socialistic pie-in-the-sky. Democrats will want a woman with experience, a veteran of the national campaign circuit, a progressive who will at least attempt to reach across the aisle to repair damage caused by eight years of Trump and his cronies.
Taken together, Amy Klobuchar’s odds are surprisingly high.
Watching her at close range during multiple campaign appearances, she rarely failed to impress voters who didn’t know as much about her as they did her more high-profile rivals. Since Iowa she has been on a roll, combining wit and wisdom to galvanize support among Democrats who have found it troubling, yet easy, to identify flaws among the front-runners.
Yes, Klobuchar is tough. Reports early in her campaign identified some harshness in dealing with her Senate staff. As I’ve watched her there’s no doubt that she’s demanding and hands-on, but none on her field staff has even hinted that the boss is abusive.
Klobuchar favors repairing the Affordable Care Act and lowering prices of prescription drugs, but stops short of Medicare for All. She acknowledges the need for immigration reform, but doesn’t advocate abolishing I.C.E. as some progressives have. She seeks to aggressively combat climate change, favors automatic voter registration when people turn 18, and demands mandatory background checks and other measures for tighter gun control — even though she comes from a hunting state.
“Hello, America. I’m Amy Klobuchar and I will beat Donald Trump!” When she began her remarks on election night in New Hampshire with that breath of fresh air, I thought of the song lyric, “Once in Love with Amy, always in love with Amy. Ever and ever fascinated by her.”
Politicians often study “paths” to victory. Amy Klobuchar does not necessarily have the best path to the White House, however among all Democrats seeking the presidency she has the most paths. That doesn’t make for much of a bumper sticker, but it makes her a candidate worth watching.
Peter Funt is a writer and speaker.