EXETER, N.H. — Senator Amy Klobuchar has spent much of the 2020 primary race mentioned as an add-on, one of those “also-running” candidates milling below the top tier.
Well, she sure isn’t milling in obscurity any more.
“As you probably heard, we’re on a bit of a surge,” Klobuchar told a cheering crowd of about 550 people who packed Exeter Town Hall for her Monday afternoon rally.
The latest Boston Globe/WBZ-TV/Suffolk University poll showed the Minnesota Democrat moving into third place, with 14 percent, ahead of former vice president Joe Biden, the once-presumptive front-runner for the nomination, and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who at one time topped the polls here. On Monday morning, Klobuchar announced that her campaign has raised more than $3 million in small online donations since Friday’s debate.
At her Monday events with voters, she touted her endorsements from various New Hampshire newspapers and The New York Times endorsement she shared with Warren.
Suddenly, she appeared to be grasping the elusive “momentum'' the day before the primary, and members of the media crammed into her speaking events and rallies across New Hampshire, on the eve of the nation’s first primary election, even as many New Hampshire voters said they remain undecided. Klobuchar tried to draw them in with her centrist appeal, pledging in Exeter to take the opposite tack of President Trump, to “unite rather than incite.”
“When you think about the words that define Donald Trump’s political playbook, it’s divide and demoralize, where mine is unite and lead,” Klobuchar told the crowd.
Her pitch persuaded Doke Collins, 57, a Portsmouth woman who emigrated from Holland in the 1990s and who liked what Klobuchar had to say about welcoming immigrants. She’ll be voting for only the second time in a presidential election.
“She’s very knowledgeable. She has a great background, experience,” Collins said. “She’s strong. She won’t be shaken up.”
Klobuchar’s rise could spell disaster for both Warren and Biden, both of whom could be seriously wounded if beaten Tuesday by a candidate who was barely on the map just a few weeks ago.
Joe Trippi, a Democratic strategist and veteran campaign manager, said Klobuchar placing ahead of Warren in New Hampshire “would finish Warren’s candidacy off."
If Warren is losing support among progressives to Sanders, which Trippi said clearly seems to be the case, and then loses her status as the top woman in the race, it doesn’t necessarily make Klobuchar a real contender for the nomination “but it could be a real problem for Warren going forward. Where, moving forward, can you turn it around?”
In an interview with the Globe on Sunday, Klobuchar said she didn’t know whose voters were switching to support her, but from what she’s hearing anecdotally, she believes her debate performance Friday caught voters’ attention.
“A lot of independents are getting sick and tired of Donald Trump, and those are the exact people we need to win,” she said.
Hillary Clinton won New Hampshire in the 2016 general election by only about 2,700 votes, so Granite State voters “are very aware of the politics of this and what it would mean to have someone heading up a ticket that can actually bring those people in,” Klobuchar said.
That’s the heart of Klobuchar’s message to voters here: She is less extreme than candidates such as Warren and Bernie Sanders and says can attract a wide array of voters, including moderates, independents, and even some who voted for Trump in 2016. She likes to say she “has the receipts,” pointing to her record of strong wins in bright red parts of Minnesota and how she helped down-ticket Democrats win there, too.
She noted that she has won three times in the district of conservative former congresswoman Michele Bachmann and said she has won every race she’s run since the fourth grade. “I have always told people that if you are tired of the extremes in our politics and the noise and the nonsense, you have a home with me.”
On Monday afternoon, she addressed a meeting of the Nashua Rotary Club where more than 100 Rotarians — many of them Republicans — filled a Nashua Country Club ballroom, and she tried to make the case that she could build bridges that Trump has destroyed.
“I truly believe that what unites us is bigger than what divides us,” she said. "My campaign has always been about reaching out and not shutting people out but bringing them with me. That starts actually with a competitive agenda for this country.“
Still not everyone was sold. Some New Hampshire voters remained undecided, less than 24 hours before the polls would close.
“She was very impressive, very articulate. Very competent but not blowing me away,” said Carol Farmer, 80, of Nashua, a Republican who refuses to vote to reelect Trump, finding him “dangerous.”
Asked about news reports that Trump’s reelection campaign plans to work to flip her home state to his column in November, Klobuchar suggested Democrats should be worried about that prospect before pointing to a poll from her home state paper that showed her doing best of all the Democratic contenders in a hypothetical matchup with Trump.
“I just think that if history here is any instruction, you look at who won these races in harder states,” she said. She said she has “excelled” in tough areas such as suburban districts “while still having the highest voter turnout in the country, which means a huge urban turnout that supported me."
As for what a “victory” in New Hampshire would look like for her, Klobuchar said it would be exceeding expectations like she did in Iowa.
“We are clearly surging, no one can doubt that, since the debate,” she said. “We don’t know where this is going to end up, but all I know is I’m not going to be chained to my Senate desk” during impeachment proceedings as she was in the run-up to Iowa. “I’m going to be able to go everywhere.”