GOFFSTOWN, N.H. — As New Hampshire voters are trying to learn about the huge field of 2020 presidential candidates, some are giving US Senator Amy Klobuchar high marks for the way she handled a tense exchange with Brett Kavanaugh during his Supreme Court confirmation hearing.
At her first New Hampshire event since announcing her presidential bid, Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota, fielded questions and comments Monday afternoon from numerous voters eager to talk about the Kavanaugh episode, in which the judicial nominee turned the tables on the senator and twice asked if she had ever drunk too much to recall what she’d done.
“She was firm but presented herself in a very dignified and very stable way,” said Jerome Duval of Manchester, N.H. “There is a certain sturdiness, a certain steadiness to her, that in the wake of the lunacy that we are dealing with in Washington is such a breath of fresh air.”
Klobuchar introduced herself to a crowd of about 250 people at the Village Trestle tavern in Goffstown, as an underdog candidate whose commitment to working with colleagues on both sides of the aisle will resonate with voters. Monday night, she was scheduled to appear on a CNN town hall meeting from New Hampshire. “My focus has really been to go everywhere, not just where it’s comfortable, but also where it’s not comfortable,” Klobuchar said. “You stand your ground, but you look for that common ground whenever you can.”
Klobuchar was among numerous Democratic candidates crisscrossing New Hampshire over the long Presidents’ Day holiday weekend, eager to connect with voters who — even amid the snow and a full year before the vote — seemed delighted with the attention. Senators Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Kamala Harris, US Representative Tulsi Gabbard, and Mayor Pete Buttigieg, of South Bend, Ind., were among the other Democrats campaigning in the state over the weekend. On Friday, Republican Bill Weld, the former Massachusetts governor, dropped by too — and announced an exploratory committee ahead of a possible primary challenge to President Trump.
If elected, Klobuchar said she’d prioritize climate change solutions by reinstating the Clean Power Plan, an Obama-era proposal to combat global warming, and rejoining the international Paris Agreement on climate. She’d take on income inequality with an increase in the national minimum wage and move the country toward universal health care, initially by expanding the eligible age for Medicare.
Substance abuse has long been a focus for Klobuchar; during the Kavanaugh hearings, Klobuchar talked about her father’s alcohol addiction and his recovery through treatment. She addressed opioid addiction Monday, saying she’d step up efforts to keep drugs out of the country and make treatment more readily accessible, in part by making pharmaceutical companies pay for it.
As Klobuchar worked her way through the crowd, some asked for more specifics about her presidential priorities. But several approached her to thank her performance during Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings.
When Klobuchar, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, questioned Kavanaugh last fall about his drinking in high school, she asked specifically if he’d ever drunk so much that later he didn’t remember what happened.
“You’re asking about blackout,” Kavanaugh responded. “I don’t know, have you?”
“Could you answer the question, judge?” Klobuchar replied. “That’s not what happened? Is that your answer?”
“Yeah, and I’m curious if you have,” Kavanaugh said.
“I have no drinking problem, judge,” Klobuchar said.
“Nor do I,” Kavanaugh concluded.
The committee took a break after the strange exchange, and Kavanaugh later apologized.
In Goffstown Monday, one woman thanked Klobuchar for her commitment to sexual assault victims in her questioning of Kavanaugh.
It was Klobuchar’s composure that most impressed Michelle Jones of Henniker, who brought her son and grandsons to hear her.
“ ‘What he did to her? And how she handled it?’ ” Jones said. “I think she has the temperament to beat Trump.”
Klobuchar said she believes her willingness to share her personal experience with her father’s addiction brings honesty to her campaign trail and promises that she will prioritize substance abuse and addiction. Voters connect with that in Minnesota, Klobuchar said, and she believes they will across the country.
Asked how she would distinguish herself from the others running for president, Klobuchar said she’s one of “a lot of great candidates.”
“We are all actually friends,” Klobuchar said, “and I think we want to get the strongest person possible to beat Donald Trump.”