Amy Klobuchar launches presidential bid during snowy Minneapolis rally

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar launched her presidential campaign Sunday afternoon during a snowy rally near downtown Minneapolis, joining a crowded field of Democrats seeking to challenge President Donald Trump.

A light but steady snow fell during the event at Boom Island Park, obscuring the Minneapolis skyline behind the stage. Thousands of supporters didn’t seem to mind. Some trekked to the park on cross country skis, while others crowded around fire pits on the edge of the park before Klobuchar’s announcement.

Klobuchar, who has dealt with recent allegations that she’s mistreated staff in her Senate office for years, on Sunday staked out a strategy that focused on Midwestern states and a calmer brand of politics.

“We are tired of the shutdowns and the showdowns, the gridlock and the grandstanding,” she told the crowd and a national audience on TV. “Today on this snowy day, on this island, we say enough is enough.”

President Donald Trump appeared to have watched the speech, noting on Twitter that Klobuchar had talked about climate change.

“Well, it happened again. Amy Klobuchar announced that she is running for President, talking proudly of fighting global warming while standing in a virtual blizzard of snow, ice and freezing temperatures. Bad timing. By the end of her speech she looked like a Snowman(woman)!” the president tweeted.

Klobuchar responded on Twitter by saying she looked forward to debating the president on climate change and adding, “I wonder how your hair would fare in a blizzard?”

In the days leading up to her launch event, Klobuchar has faced allegations that she’s mistreated staff in her Senate office for years. 

The Huffington Post reported last week that Klobuchar’s reputation had scared off three people from leading her presidential campaign. Then, Buzzfeed interviewed former aides who said Klobuchar regularly berated staffers. None of the aides were willing to be named.

Klobuchar told reporters during a chaotic post-speech interview that she preferred to focus on the issues. She declined to say whether she blamed her opponents for the negative headlines.

“I love our staff. Look at this incredible event they put together [Sunday]," she said. “Yes, I can be tough. Yes, I can push people, I know that.”

Klobuchar has already made several visits to Iowa, which holds first-in-the-nation caucuses in February, and is scheduled to be in the Hawkeye State again next week.

She has a built-in advantage with Democratic voters in Iowa because of her proximity. She said she likes to “go south for the winter” to Iowa and played up her Midwestern upbringing, noting that her mom was born in the presidential swing state of Wisconsin.

Klobuchar said she also planned to make early stops in Wisconsin, before taking an apparent dig at Hillary Clinton, the Democrats’ 2016 nominee who failed to visit the state during the general election. She became the first Democrat to lose Wisconsin since 1984.

“We’re starting in Wisconsin because as we remember, there wasn’t a lot of campaigning in Wisconsin in 2016,” Klobuchar told reporters.

Klobuchar is trying to take her appeal in Minnesota – where in 2018 she won 42 counties that President Donald Trump carried two years before – to a national stage. But she now faces at least 10 Democratic rivals, and isn’t well-known nationally like some of them.

Sunday, Klobuchar seemed to relish the underdog role.

“I don’t have a political machine. I don’t come from money. But what I do have is this: I have grit,” she said.

Several supporters said they weren’t concerned about the negative headlines and said a tough-on-staff narrative could even become a positive for the nascent campaign.

“I’m not concerned about that. The person who’s going to have to get in the White House is going to have to be aggressive to get rid of (Trump),” said Susan Sayre Giovati, who flew from Detroit on Sunday morning with her husband to attend the announcement. 

“I think we all have a side of ourselves that, if we were to be in the public eye, somebody would have something negative to say,” said Mary Stanley, a Minnesota voter who said she’s supported Klobuchar for years.

Klobuchar has secured the support of several key Minnesota Democratic politicians ahead of her announcement. U.S. Sen. Tina Smith, Gov. Tim Walz, Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and others joined Klobuchar at the event, her campaign said.

But Republican Party of Minnesota Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan criticized Klobuchar’s decision to run for president so quickly after Minnesota voters re-elected her to a six-year term in the U.S. Senate.

“While Democrats are clearly hoping for a 'moderate’ candidate, Klobuchar comes with serious flaws – the first being her lack of integrity when it comes to her word,” Carnahan said in an emailed statement.

Klobuchar’s speech included several policy proposals, which is unusual for a campaign kickoff. She said all U.S. homes should be connected to the Internet by 2022, endorsed universal health care, and said all people should need a background check before buying a gun. 

She never mentioned President Trump by name, but said she would not conduct “foreign policy by tweet.”