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Klobuchar offers Democrats a Midwestern road to the White House

Evan Halper, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON –– Sen. Amy Klobuchar doesn't have much star power in a Democratic primary packed with it. She can't compete with several of the other presidential candidates in social media presence, fundraising aptitude or even ability to fire up the base with big, ambitious policy plans.

But the Minnesota pragmatist who joined the race Sunday brings with her a different asset: the promise of credibility with Midwesterners like those who soured on the Democratic Party in 2016. They could prove crucial in determining whether President Donald Trump is re-elected.

"I don't have a political machine. I don't come from money. But what I do have is this: I have grit," Klobuchar said as a persistent snowfall pelted down on the rostrum at her outdoor announcement rally in a park along the Mississippi River near downtown Minneapolis.

"We are tired of the shutdowns and the showdowns, the gridlock and the grandstanding," she said. "Today, we say enough is enough."

The fifth senator -- and also the fifth woman -- to enter the rapidly growing Democratic field, the 58-year-old former prosecutor and three-term senator enters the race an unknown to many voters outside her native state. A veteran lawmaker, Klobuchar is more a behind-the-scenes dealmaker than soapbox orator.

Klobuchar's congressional calling has been bipartisan coalition building in the dwindling number of policy areas where that remains possible, focusing on consumer protection, agriculture and other topics that don't often get national attention.

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She offered a taste of that in her announcement, talking of issues such as digital privacy and worker training initiatives that have been largely absent from other candidates' speeches.

And although she also hit many of the same themes as other Democrats -- expanded access to health care, for example, and stronger action against climate change -- she avoided the language that several of her rivals have used to appeal to activists on the party's left.

She said, for example, that the country needs to "invest in green jobs and infrastructure," but did not utter the words "green New Deal" that many progressives use. Similarly, she called for "getting to universal health care," but did not endorse "Medicare for all," which has become a litmus test for some Democrats. In the Senate, she has supported more modest changes in the health care system and has focused her energy on lowering the cost of prescription drugs.

Klobuchar landed in the national spotlight during the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, keeping her cool as he lashed out at her when she asked if his drinking may have affected his memory of the night Christine Blasey Ford says he sexually assaulted her.

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