Klobuchar plays up Midwestern roots in first campaign swing

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar emphasized her Minnesota election wins, family ties to Wisconsin, and knowledge of Iowa during the first campaign swing of her heartland-themed presidential bid.

Klobuchar’s message to voters: the Midwest will be key to defeating President Donald Trump and she knows how to win here.

Her first stop Saturday was in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, a state that Democrat Hillary Clinton never visited during the 2016 general election and lost. Klobuchar then made a visit to Mason City, Iowa.

“I know I can beat Donald Trump because I have won in the rural counties,” Klobuchar told Democratic voters in Mason City. “I have won every single (Minnesota) congressional district – including (former Republican U.S. Rep) Michele Bachmann’s – three times in a row.”

Klobuchar stood on small stool to address a restaurant dining room that was filled to capacity. She then went next door to a mall, where an overflow crowd waited, and gave the speech again.

In Eau Claire, Klobuchar played up her family connections and noted that her mom was born in Wisconsin. She promised to put a focus on the state, where Trump became the first Republican presidential candidate to win since 1984.

“What I’ve decided to do in our state and what I do all around the country as I run this campaign is go to places that maybe we didn’t focus on enough in the last few years,” she said at a bicycle and coffee shop.

Klobuchar laid out a vision on national issues, advocating for universal health insurance coverage and connecting every household to the internet by 2022. To pay for her policy agenda, Klobuchar said the country should increase the tax on stock capital gains.

Klobuchar’s brand has won her a following in Iowa, where she has a geographic advantage here because of Minnesota’s proximity.

“I thought she has a clear vision. She has the issues that we care about,” said Jean Hartwell, who said she was impressed by Klobuchar’s speech Saturday. “I know it’s so early, but I’m going to start with her.”

“I admired this woman years ago,” said Dar Rosenberg, a voter from western Iowa. “It was like, ‘This chick’s going to do things, she’s going to go places.’”

Klobuchar will need to raise significant amounts of money and maintain a robust ground game if she expects to do well in Iowa. At least 10 Democratic candidates are already in the race, and Klobuchar remains relatively unknown to voters across the country.

“It’ll take a lot of trips here to convince people,” said JoAnn Hardy, the Cerro Gordo County Democratic party chairwoman. “I really think a lot of people aren’t going to make their minds up for a while because there are so many candidates.”

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey stopped in Mason City last week, and Hardy said other campaigns have contacted her about similar visits. Candidates will find it difficult to solidify local support with so many undecided voters, she said.

“We want to meet them all. We want to shake their hand,” Hardy said. “That’s the way we do politics – it’s one-on-one.”

Sunday, Klobuchar is scheduled to make two more Iowa stops in Knoxville and Albia, southeast of Des Moines. Then, she’ll fly to New Hampshire to hold two events on Monday, including a live town hall on CNN from Saint Anselm College in Manchester.