Government

Some Iowa voters looking for 'the middle' look to Amy Klobuchar

Over 100 meet at Marion pub to hear from the senator from Minnesota two weeks before the caucuses

MARION — Nearly four years after caucusing for Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Cari Redondo is committed to Amy Klobuchar.

Redondo, a 44-year-old from Marion, said the Democratic presidential candidate won her over months ago with her positive demeanor and moderate policy positions.

With two weeks until the Iowa caucuses, she wondered Sunday if other politically centrist Iowans would show up for the senator from Minnesota — who came in fifth place, with 6 percent, in the last Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom Iowa Poll.

“I caucused for Ted Cruz because I didn’t want Donald Trump to win, and I was still attached to the Republican Party at the time. Now, I am not,” Redondo said. “I’m curious to know if there is a group of people out there who are in the middle that we don’t really hear about.”

Klobuchar spoke to more than 100 potential caucusgoers like Redondo at an Irish pub in Marion on Sunday, part of a swing through Iowa before President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial takes her back to D.C.

The senator highlighted an endorsement that morning from the Quad-City Times, as well as the highest number of endorsements among Democrats from current and former elected Iowa officials.

Later, the New York Times editorial board broke with convention and endorsed two candidates — klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren, saying they were Democrats’ best choices for president.

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Klobuchar’s backers include state Rep. Molly Donahue of Cedar Rapids and state Sen. Liz Mathis of Hiawatha, who attended the event in Marion.

“Her policies appeal to all of America,” Donahue said. “They’re bringing not only the base of Democrats to Amy, but also independents and moderate Republicans.”

Although attendees said they admire Klobuchar for her ability to bridge partisan divides, the candidate said she is with progressive and liberal voters “on nearly every issue,” including abortion rights, climate change and gun safety.

“That’s important to me,” she said in an interview. “What’s also important to me is bringing people along with me, and that’s maybe where I have a different tone than some of our candidates, but it’s worked. I have won in red districts over and over and over again, and I think that when you really look at my record, I have always brought in a fired-up democratic base, including people of color.”

It’s a track record she said should appeal to the party’s liberal and progressive wings.

“What I would say to our progressive, incredible base — I actually have the receipts,” Klobuchar said. “If you want a progressive, you want to elect people that make progress. I’ve done that.”

During her speech, Klobuchar discussed her plans to make higher education more affordable, but not free, and to improve the Affordable Care Act rather than pivot to a “Medicare for All” system.

Among nearly a dozen attendees interviewed by The Gazette, most remained uncommitted to a candidate. Some were searching for a new top choice after the exits of Sens. Cory Booker and Kamala Harris.

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They were Scott Johnson’s favorite candidates. In their absence, the 63-year-old from Cedar Rapids said he is actively considering Klobuchar, businessman Andrew Yang and former Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

“I’m kind of aiming for the non-geriatric group,” he said.

“Speaking as a member,” Anne Johnson, his wife, added.

Anne Johnson, 62, said she finds Klobuchar’s “drive for the common good” and commitment to finding consensus attractive. Both she and her husband identified as Republicans until 2016.

“Trump fixed that,” Scott Johnson said.

Klobuchar made multiple mentions of the 31 counties in Iowa that voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2021 and flipped for Trump in 2016.

“When you look at that debate stage and think about some of those people in those 31 counties in Iowa, and you think about independents and moderate Republicans that are watching, they do not agree with everything we stand for on that stage,” she told the crowd. “I don’t agree with everything that’s said on that stage. What we do agree on is this — we have a heart in America that is bigger than the heart of the guy in the White House.”

Afterward, as other attendees filed out of Uptown Snug and onto frozen sidewalks, Cindy Hanawalt lingered behind to fill out a card committing to caucus for Klobuchar. The physician from Cedar Rapids said she doesn’t feel the other Democrats running can deliver their promises on health care.

Hanawalt, 53, said she voted for the Green Party in 2016 and identified as an independent until 2018. Concerned by Gov. Kim Reynolds’ health care policies, she changed her party affiliation to support her Democratic challenger, Fred Hubbell.

“This is the first time I’ve ever declared to be a Democrat,” she said. “It’s really important to me to have leadership that represents all of us. … I think people are looking for that candidate who can be the middle.”

Comments: (319) 398-8330; molly.duffy@thegazette.com

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