Amy Klobuchar rolls through Iowa looking for her breakout moment

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) is hoping to capitalize on the momentum from the December debate as she spends time campaigning in Iowa. CNN's Kyung Lah joins her on the trail.

Posted: Dec 23, 2019 2:10 PM
Updated: Dec 23, 2019 2:10 PM

Less than 24 hours after a strong showing at the Democratic debate in California, Sen. Amy Klobuchar was already rolling through Iowa on her bright green bus.

Klobuchar has embarked on a 27-county, four-day swing through the first-in-the-nation caucus state, where she is hoping her debate performance and her moderate message will earn her a second look and much-needed momentum with a little more than 40 days until the caucuses. Already since the debate, Klobuchar's campaign said it raised more than $1 million.

And this bus tour could be one of the last times Klobuchar is able to spend significant time in the Hawkeye State, with a looming Senate trial on whether to remove President Donald Trump from office threatening to keep her and other Democratic senators running for president in Washington for a large period of time in January.

"I don't think [Iowa caucus-goers are] going to hold it against you if my husband is standing here that last week and I'm here on Skype on some screen. I mean that's what we're going to have to do, because this is too important," Klobuchar said of juggling campaigning with her duties as a senator.

This trip will cement Klobuchar's visit to 96 of the 99 counties in Iowa. On Friday, she plans to close out all the counties, with her campaign already boasting she'll be the only candidate to do so.

As she did in the debate, she is positioning herself as "the right package" of age and experience, threading the needle between two higher-polling moderate candidate in Iowa -- former Vice President Joe Biden and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and contrasting herself with the progressive candidates in the race, Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

"I like to joke that 59 is the new 37 to Mayor Pete," Klobuchar said to CNN in an interview aboard her bus emblazoned with the word "Amy." "I'm someone that's in between the ages of my friends, the vice president and Pete Buttigieg. I am a new generation of leader."

Klobuchar bristles at the larger structural reforms like Medicare for All, favoring a public option within the Affordable Care Act. She says it's possible to be "progressive and practical," rejecting ideas like free college. Rebuilding "the Blue Wall" for Democrats, says Klobuchar, is by building bridges, "not blowing them up."

But she is also keeping her focus on Trump. At one stop in Iowa, two men, one dressed in MAGA gear, shouted multiple times while Klobuchar was speaking, in one case asking, "how are you going to pay for it?" when she was going through her proposals.

Klobuchar ignored him at first, but called him the "peanut gallery" before thumping Trump on his economic platform while in office.

"A question was raised there from the peanut gallery about how we pay for things. I have actually outlined how am I going to pay for every single thing that I have proposed, and that is by reversing a number of the regressive things that Donald Trump has done," she said.

"He's literally running our country like one of his bankrupt casinos, that tax bill added over a trillion dollars in debt," she added.

She also emphasizes her Minnesota roots, arguing that she can win back the Midwest beginning with the state that neighbors her own.

"The Midwest is not flyover country to me. I live here," Klobuchar has said again and again to receptive Iowans.

Klobuchar remains at a distant fifth place at 6% in the latest CNN/Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll, behind Buttigieg, Warren, Biden and Sanders. But the Klobuchar campaign is eyeing other numbers in the Iowa poll—that 27% are actively considering her and another 6% of respondents say she's their second choice.

"She's way at the top for me. I've almost decided," agonized Cindy Gomis at the Creston gathering. The other candidate she's considering? Pete Buttigieg, she said. "I really liked him, until I heard her."

But Delores Bristol wasn't as convinced after seeing the former prosecutor at a house party in Council Bluffs. She was still leaning towards Biden, comforted by his more than 40 years of public service.

"Honestly, I could go into the caucuses undecided," said Bristol. "I have no problems doing that."

Susie Boyde, after seeing Klobuchar speak in person, moved out of the undecided column.

"She just knows what she's saying, she's not afraid to show it," said Boyde, who was previously considering Buttigieg. "She says it in a calm manner. And she's polite about things."

"In Iowa, the ultimate compliment is, 'You're in my top three!'" Klobuchar emphatically stated during her weekend swing, urging Democrats to pick her. "Go for it! Just go for it!"

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