CEDAR RAPIDS — Although she deflects when asked about her plans for the next presidential election, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar makes clear Democrats have to broaden their base beyond being a bicoastal party.
“It’s important to have people speaking out at this time of great turmoil who are not just from the coasts, who are Democrats from the Heartland,” Klobuchar said after a closed-press, $50-per-person fundraiser with about 50 Linn County Democrats.
So Sunday she was in Iowa — in Marion and later at a Polk County Democratic Party event in Des Moines — to tell Democrats it’s time to put the last election behind them and focus on future elections.
Although the second-term senator from a reliably blue state often is included on the long list of possible 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, Klobuchar insists her focus is on winning re-election in 2018.
That will be “the first test of our party and who we stand for and what we do,” she said. So Democrats need voices “that are not just from the coasts … because we fared very poorly in the middle of the country.”
She thinks the Midwest will be hurt more than other parts of the country by some of the cuts President Donald Trump has proposed, such as eliminating low-income heating assistance and a 20 percent reduction in the U.S. Department of Agriculture budget.
For Democrats to be successful nationally, Klobuchar said, that means “showing up and showing we are part of the Midwest instead of taking it for granted.”
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Iowans get it, but Klobuchar isn’t sure national campaigns understand that events in small towns may draw only 10 people, “but if you go to a lot of small towns, that adds up,” said Klobuchar, who does her version of the “full Grassley,” visiting all 87 Minnesota counties each year to stay in touch with both urban and rural voters.
So while she encourages Democrats to continue to stand up for what they believe, Klobuchar said they need to give voice to “our own positive vision for the country.”
“That has gotten, understandably, kind of lost because we’re having to spend a lot of time pushing back” against the president’s attempts at “disrupting and distracting,” she said.
In addition to marching and organizing, Democrats need to “translate that into campaigns because that’s still the core of our democracy — that people run for office,” she said. “In the end, we have to take all of this energy that people are feeling in a resistance, protesting sense and convert that into power for people who were turned off by the last election.”
Klobuchar isn’t the first of the potential 2020 candidates to visit Iowa since the election — and won’t be the last. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley has been back to campaign for special election candidates, and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has a July visit on his calendar.
Klobuchar is no stranger to Iowa. She headlined the North Iowa Wing Ding, a Democratic fundraiser, in 2013 and the Iowa Democratic Party’s 2014 Jefferson Jackson Day dinner. She was back during the 2016 caucus campaign in support of Hillary Clinton.
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