Senator Amy Klobuchar has raised $2m since Friday’s 2020 Democratic debate, her campaign said on Saturday, in the latest sign of her resilience in the presidential primary contest.
The hefty haul underscores the staying power of the Minnesota senator’s campaign, despite consistently polling well behind rivals Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, former vice-president Joe Biden and Senator Elizabeth Warren.
Klobuchar has been regularly outraised by those candidates. She has polled below the other top-tier candidates, and after doggedly campaigning in Iowa she came away with just 12% of the vote.
Yet she’s remained a fixture on the debate stage, and has been endorsed by the New York Times and more recently a set of coveted New Hampshire newspapers.
Maura Keefe, a former chief of staff to New Hampshire senator Jeanne Shaheen, said Klobuchar has managed to stay in the race by consistently exceeding expectations.
“She has the ability to exceed expectations and certainly did herself a lot of good last night,” Keefe said. “The closing argument is always good in any race, but particularly in a crowded field like this, where 50% of the voters may be undecided so the closing response could be very very important.
“She had a standout debate and made a very compelling case on electability, which is her history and ability of winning independents and moderates. So she put herself in the conversation for the final few days here. She’s counting on a momentum and surprise and exceeding expectations, and that’s how you continue.”
During Friday’s debate, Klobuchar largely distinguished herself by criticizing the idea that a “cool newcomer” would make for a good president – deftly using Buttigieg’s outside-the-Beltway pitch against him. She also seized on Buttigieg’s prior comments that the impeachment proceedings were exhausting.
Praise for Klobuchar came from the likes of MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, who said: “She seemed like a president tonight. She seemed like the president I would like to have as a president.”
Columnist Frida Ghitis said in a CNN op-ed: “On Friday night, I could for once picture the Minnesota senator shredding Trump on that stage.”
Even a piece in the conservative Washington Examiner praised Klobuchar, with Kaylee McGhee writing that she “successfully sold herself as the Democratic party’s ideal centrist pick” during the debate.
But Klobuchar’s path beyond New Hampshire is unclear. She is not expected to win the New Hampshire primary. A CNN/University of New Hampshire Survey Center poll found her with just 5% support here, well behind Sanders, Buttigieg, and Biden. In the next primary contest, the Nevada caucuses, recent polls have found Klobuchar in the low single digits.
In South Carolina, a state with a large African American electorate that Biden is banking on, recent surveys have found her in a similar position. It’s also unclear how Klobuchar’s background as a tough-on-crime prosecutor will play there. In past elections she campaigned as on her record as a hard county prosecutor.
Klobuchar said during an interview on Meet the Press in 2006: “I am committed to this war against terror. I am someone who puts people in jail for a living. I am tough on security. And I will tell you this: I believe that the people on the frontline have to have the tools to wiretap, they have to have the tools to do the surveillance that we need.
“I supported the Patriot Act, I did support some of the changes that were later made to the Patriot Act with library books, library records and things like that.”
Former South Carolina state representative Bakari Sellers said he has seen no outreach by Klobuchar or her campaign to black voters in the state. In an interview on Saturday, a day after the debate, Sellers said: “She hasn’t even tried to engage black voters. I don’t know who told her that her strategy to be the Democratic nominee was just getting white midwestern women to vote for you. Whoever did that needs to be fired. I don’t know what black woman is voting for Amy Klobuchar.”
But Sellers also conceded that Klobuchar is a talented politician.
“It’s funny to me, because she’s probably as talented on the debate stage as she’s a prosecutor,” Sellers said. “The last prosecutor we had on the debate stage got run out of town because she was a prosecutor – but nobody has pushed her on the issue.”
Ruth Ann Gaines, an Iowa state representative who is black, was the first state representative to endorse a Klobuchar.