Hanover, N.H. — Following her strong debate performance on Friday night in Manchester, Amy Klobuchar drew solid crowds as she crisscrossed New Hampshire this weekend. She spoke at Dartmouth College a few hours after Pete Buttigieg was there on Saturday, and both candidates drew about the same number of attendees. On Sunday, more than 700 people showed up to see her in Manchester and another 1,100 came out to see her in Nashua, while Buttigieg had a crowd of 1,800 at his lone event in Nashua that same day. The crowds for Joe Biden were much smaller.
The interest in Klobuchar at these events matched the interest in her online, and is borne out in the polls: Two separate tracking surveys conducted after the debate showed her jumping out to third place in New Hampshire. In Suffolk’s poll, she shot up from 6 percent to 14 percent following the debate, a couple points ahead of both Biden and Elizabeth Warren, while Bernie Sanders led with 27 percent and Buttigieg was in second at 19 percent.
In short, Klobuchar appears to be hitting her stride in New Hampshire, and support for her could continue to grow in the closing hours of the race. Earlier in the campaign, Klobuchar’s nerves appeared to get the better of her at times on the debate stage, but on the stump this weekend she was at ease. With a smile on her face at Dartmouth, she skillfully differentiated herself from all of her opponents. She recalled that when the ABC debate moderator asked, “Do we think a socialist should lead the ticket? I was the only one that raised my hand and said, ‘No, actually I don’t.’ Bernie and I are friends. I appreciate his service, but I don’t think he should lead the ticket.”
I’ve seen Klobuchar deliver her stump speech four times — twice in Iowa and twice in New Hampshire — and she continues to get better each time as she hammers the themes of electability and (relative) moderation. The timing of her jokes has even improved.
“I have won every place, every race, every time. I have won all the way down to fourth grade,” she said in Manchester. All of her male rivals “boast about stuff on the debate stage, so this is my thing.”
“Back then my slogan — which I have since abandoned — was ‘All the way with Amy K.,’” she added to laughter. “I don’t think that’s where we want to go right now.”
In Klobuchar’s thumbnail sketch of her life, she paints a picture of a modest and at times challenging upbringing: Her mother grew up poor in Milwaukee and spent her entire adult life as a second-grade teacher in Minnesota. Her father was an alcoholic journalist, and the two of them split up when she was 15. When her father finally faced the choice of jail or treatment for alcoholism, he chose treatment and was, in his own words, “pursued by grace,” Klobuchar said. Now 91, he still meets with the Alcoholics Anonymous group at his assisted-living center, but “he says it’s pretty hard to get a drink around here anyway.”
Klobuchar’s ability to get the crowd laughing several times in the course of a stump speech is something you just don’t see at events for Sanders, Buttigieg, Warren, or Biden, all of which are generally humorless affairs.
“Her charm came across much more than even in debates,” Amy Feitelson of Rye, N.H., told me after the Dartmouth event. “I like her practical attitude.” She added that she settled on Klobuchar after “mostly thinking, ‘Who can beat Trump?’ I think she can pull her own.”
“I’m leaning very strongly toward Amy,” said a third-grade teacher named Jess from Hanover, who brought her two young children to the event. “I love that she gets stuff done. She’s made working with Republicans part of her platform.”
“I like Amy’s bluntness and directness,” said Hannah Romer of West Lebanon, who is still trying to make up her mind between Klobuchar and Warren.
Where does Klobuchar go from here? There are simply too many unknowns to predict that with any certainty. But a strong third-place finish tomorrow would likely mean her campaign lives to fight another day. She said over the weekend that she had raised $2.5 million since the debate, and any candidate with a good chance of clearing the 15-percent threshold to win delegates in future contests will have a strong incentive to stay in the race.
But is there a real chance that the Democratic Party will actually want to go all the way with Amy K. as its standard-bearer, or is it more likely that Klobuchar’s continued candidacy will just split the “moderate” vote with Buttigieg and help Sanders grow a lead in the race? It’s hard to say.
One thing that is clear — and this is something that can’t be said of Klobuchar’s Senate colleagues from New York or California — is that her political stock has risen because of the 2020 presidential campaign. While Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Beto O’Rourke dropped out before a single vote was cast, Klobuchar is still in the fight and her message is resonating. “If you are tired of the extremes in our politics and the noise and the nonsense, you have a home with me,” she told the crowd in Manchester on Sunday. The line was greeted with loud applause.