‘Rite of passage:' Amy Klobuchar campaigns in small-town Iowa

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar swung through two small Iowa towns Sunday and made it clear that rural areas of this state would be key to her presidential campaign.

Klobuchar, along with her husband and daughter, stopped at a Democratic soup luncheon at a brewery in Knoxville, population 7,000. Then, she went to a spaghetti dinner at a church in Albia, which is about half the size of Knoxville.

“Iowa is a place where you can actually talk to people one-on-one in small places and dining rooms and breweries,” Klobuchar told reporters. “They can ask questions and you can give answers, and I think it’s an important rite of passage for a candidate.”

Klobuchar, who frequently touts her ability to get to all 87 Minnesota counties in a year, did not commit when asked if she would campaign in all 99 Iowa counties. However, said she would get to “a great number of them.”

“We all know we can win in the heartland as the Democratic party, but we’ve got to put the effort into it,” she said.

Retail politics will be key as Klobuchar tries to become better known outside Minnesota. She acknowledged Sunday that she would not be able to raise as much money as some rival candidates, though her campaign has said it raised $1 million in the first 48 hours after launching last weekend.

“It’s not just about TV ads. You think about how many presidents were able to get their start in states like Iowa because they were able to show their stuff,” Klobuchar said.

A winter storm socked Iowa overnight, coating the ground with several inches of snow. At each stop, Klobuchar joked about bringing her “snow globe,” after her wintry campaign launch event Feb. 10 in Minneapolis.

For the first time in her new campaign, Klobuchar shared the spotlight with other Democratic presidential candidates Sunday at both the Knoxville and Albia events. Former U.S. Rep. John Delaney of Maryland spoke at both, while U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell of California stumped in Albia.

“It’s up to the Democratic party to become the party that’s honest about the problems and honest about the solutions,” Delaney said. He and Klobuchar both praised the other’s work.

Klobuchar peppered her speeches with national issues. One audience member in Knoxville asked her what she’d call a national emergency for – a reference to President Donald Trump’s emergency declaration to seek funding for a border wall.

Klobuchar said Trump’s emergency declaration faced constitutional concerns, funding questions, and a potential backlash over a use of eminent domain to secure land for the wall.

“He wants to have us go down every rabbit hole with him,” she said, “and spent our whole time talking about this wall instead of some smart security at the border.”

Facing a huge field of candidates, several Iowa voters said this weekend that they thought Klobuchar would appeal across party lines in a general election. 

“I think we have to have a candidate who appeals to a broad section of people. I think Amy can do it,” said Phyllis Weeks of Knoxville, who said she signed up Sunday to support Klobuchar.

But some said they first wanted to meet all of the Democratic contenders, some of whom have not yet declared their candidacy. They said they were impressed by Klobuchar’s emphasis on rural issues in her speeches.

“Somehow we’re going to have to reach these people who feel like they aren’t being reached, nobody’s addressing their needs, nobody seems to care about them. That’s going to be important this next election,” said Elaine Jordan, who lives outside Knoxville.