Thursday, January 24, 2013

Meet Amy Klobuchar

Name: Amy Klobuchar

Position: United States Senator, Minnesota

Party: Democrat

Age: 52

Career arc:

a. Graduated from Yale University with a degree in political science.

b. J.D. at University of Chicago Law School, where she was associated editor of the University of Chicago Law Review.

c. Elected county attorney.

d. President of the Minnesota County Attorneys Association (2002-2003).

e. Partner at law firm.

f. Elected Senator, 2006.


She was born in Minnesota to Jim and Rose Klobuchar.

Jim was a columnist for the state's Star-Tribune paper, while her mom was a teacher who didn't retire until she was 70 years-old (as nearly every profile of Klobuchar will tell you).

Amy was a star student from the beginning, but not in a precocious, Rushmore Max Fischer kind of way, but in a distinctly salt of the earth kind of way.

As befitting academic stars, she made her way to Yale and then to the University of Chicago's law school. Once she was done, she came back to Minnesota, started practicing law, and then was elected as prosecutor for Minnesota's populous Hennepin County.

Eight years later (2006), she ran for Senate and won impressively, beating a well-funded, strong GOP candidate, Mark Kennedy, by 20%.

In 2012, she won reelection by an even bigger margin, 65%-30% and boasts a strong 60%/26% approval rating in the state. That's, understandably, much higher than her colleague, Al Franken's, who held an underwhelming 47%/39% rating in the same poll.

Most impressively, Klobuchar's approval rating with those calling themselves "independent" was 62%/24%.

If she wants to be a senator in perpetuity, well, then consider her on the road to perpetuity (a great name for a novel).

SCORECARDS, measuring her career in the Senate.

a: National Journal Scorecard: Ranks as the 34th most liberal senator in the chamber, which suggests a slightly more moderate voting record than most of her Democratic colleagues.

b. American Civil Liberties Union: For the 111th Congress, the liberal advocacy group gave her an 86%, which was actually higher than her colleague, Al Franken and his 66%.

Still, Klobuchar trailed liberal stalwarts such as John Kerry, Barbara Mikulski, Harry Reid, and Chuck Schumer on the group's scorecard, although she was slightly higher than potential '16 foes Kirsten Gillibrand and Mark Warner.

c. League of Conservation Voters: She scored a 82% for the most recent congressional session, which was lower than both Mark Warner and Kirsten Gillibrand's 100%.

Interestingly enough, they dinged her for voting to retain ethanol subsidies, because the LCV opposes the "far-reaching negative, environmental impacts" of conventional corn ethanol.

Klobuchar represents an ethanol-friendly region of the country, so her support for the subsidies is understandable.

d. Club for Growth: The conservative group calls her the 17th most liberal senator of the last congressional session and hands her a 5% lifetime rating. If you don't like the Club for Growth, you'll probably like Klobuchar. 

e. U.S. Chamber of Commerce: The big-business friendly group hands her a lifetime 47% rating, which puts her somewhere between the liberal and conservative wing of the Democratic party (for comparison, Harry Reid gets 37%, while Mark Begich pulls in 87%).

Via Project Vote Smart, she scores 100% from every pro-choice group and 0% from every pro-life group, she gets an "A" from the NEA, a 100% from liberal family groups and 0% from conservative family groups like the American Family Association.

The NRA gives her a 0% and Gun Owners of America also gives her a 0%. That could help her in a Democratic primary, but hurt her in a general election when she'd need Ohio and Pennsylvania.

The AFL-CIO gives her a 79% for her positions, while a number of other labor unions give her a 100%. The gay Human Rights Campaign gives her a 96%, while the conservative Family Research Council gives her a 0%.

And finally, here's a super-helpful site that averages key liberal interest groups' ratings of Klobuchar. Her overall score?


RATINGS UPSHOT: Klobuchar is a hardcore liberal on social issues, dovish on foreign policy, but hasn't proven as liberal on economic issues as guys like Dick Durbin and Chuck Schumer. In fact, she's proven to be fairly popular with some Republican business interests in the state, which adds some nuance to the stereotype of a liberal, Minnesotan legislator.

And browsing the Kos-world, there seems to be chatter that she's got a progressive idealism but some pragmatism that might make the diehards a little queasy.

Having said that, she'd certainly satisfy the demands of most progressive interest groups that wield power in Democratic primaries.

She endorsed Barack Obama in the 2008 primary, but only after Minnesota voted overwhelmingly for him over Hillary Clinton. So why did it matter? Minnesota only had three uncommitted super delegates at the time, and this was at a time when super delegates were at a premium. The fact that Klobuchar passed on Hillary, a fellow female, and at a rough time might have stung Hill a bit.

Oh, and Justin Bieber picked a fight with her in 2011 over her support for a crappy bill about making it a felony to do cool, non-copyright things on the internet. The Biebs said she should be "put away in cuffs" for her legislative threat.

Klobuchar said the Biebs misunderstood her, but still... the fastest way to nowhere in a Democratic primary is to make threats about copyrights and making the internet less free. You WILL BE DESTROYED online and with every youth activist you need.

Here's the audio, via the Star-Tribune:

British super group, Girls Aloud


Don't underestimate the power of Klobuchar regaling campaign crowds with this anecdote on the trail.

Last November, she talked about the first "traffic jam in the Senate women's bathroom" in history. Five female senators in the bano, and "there were only two stalls."

(Btw, when I worked at an insurance company, I accidentally strolled into the women's bathroom. No one was in there, and I immediately thought "Wow, they put in extra stalls over the weekend." Then I went into one of them, and thought about the new contour "Huh, that's strange. They took out the urinals to put in the extra stalls. That's sort of weird." Then about a minute later, I heard the CLICK-CLICK of women's high heels. After a few seconds, everything sort of made sense, and I connected the dots. Not sure if you should really rely on me for incisive analysis, in the future).

As a legislator, the Wall Street Journal notes that she's carved "out a niche in consumer-related legislation, including sponsorship of swimming pool safety laws." The human in me says "Woo hoo! Children saved!" The realist in me says, "Mmm... pricey pricey", and the junkie in me says "Gender gap, grow thyself."

Anyway, the point is -- "first traffic jam in the Senate women's bathroom history" is an awesome girl power anecdote that Klobuchar can use on the campaign trail -- particularly, if Hillary doesn't run and there's, thus, an open spot for first-female-nominee-in-history.


When the Minneapolis Star-Tribune endorsed her (disclosure: her dad worked as a journalist for the paper a long time ago) for a second term, the paper noted that her ability to defy increasing partisanship made her a "political marvel", but then echoed a fairly significant issue Klobuchar needs to address (particularly if she's going to run for president).

She just isn't terribly visible as a national player yet.

For all her first-term achievements, Klobuchar has not made her voice widely heard on the country's most vexing problems -- the national debt, economic revitalization, health care, energy independence and immigration among them. She voices strong and considered opinions on those topics when asked, and is at work on several of them, largely behind the scenes.

She can and should be more vocal and visible. Few Democratic lawmakers are likely to arrive in Washington after the Nov. 6 election with more political capital in their home-state accounts. We hope she's of a mind to do some spending.

So what's she going to do about that?

Oh, why not do some outreach to IOWANS?

And she did just that during inauguration week -- something that caught the Des Moines Register's eye. The paper reported that she attended the State Society of Iowa's "First in the Nation Celebration", which was organized by Iowans in DC.

And here's another thing about her -- she's worked extensively on agricultural issues as a member of the Senate Agricultural Committee, and has been described as "passionate and unpretentious" by a local journalist.

That means she'll be fluent in connecting with Iowans on rural issues.

In a Democratic caucus,. Klobuchar vs. Gillibrand would be a boon for ag-talk (Gillibrand is also fluent in the issue).

SPOUSE: John Bessler (daughter, Abigail).

The Klobuchars, next first family?

The hubby Bessler graduated from the University of Minnesota and got his J.D. at Indiana. He currently teaches law at the University of Minnesota and is a partner at a law firm.

He's written three books calling for the abolition of the death penalty (Cruel and Unusual: The American Death Penalty and the Founder's 8th Amendment is one and Death in the Dark: Midnight Executions in America another).

Really, the Klobuchars seem to be a liberal Minnesotan family, committed to the progressive interpretation of social justice.


She certainly seems open to it if you read between the lines.

Here's Chris Matthews pressing her on the question in November, and here's Klobuchar laughing and responding by talking about how much she looooooooves being a senator from Minnesota -- the standard dodge.

Comes 5:50 in.

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She's one of four viable, potential, female Democratic candidates for president -- Hillary Clinton, Kirsten Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren, and Klobuchar.

If Republicans look primed to nominate a minority, Dems will be desperate to go with a woman, and if Hillary doesn't run, that leaves Gillibrand, Warren, and Klobuchar as strong options.

And there's this -- Dems already nominated and elected the first African-American, but now they'd love to nominate and elect the first female president. So in the demographic game right now, Woman > Deval Patrick.

Thus, I don't think you'll see Patrick carrying the same kind of demographic cachet that a woman would this time (this ranking-the-demographics thing is a much easier thing to write about when you're blogging on your own).

Then there's this -- Klobuchar has been an effective senator who's managed to keep both liberals and business interests relatively happy. And record counts for something.

Then there's this -- she's got an easy Midwestern demeanor and kind but dry wit that Iowans, especially, love. If you watch her cable news interviews, you'll nearly always hear her slip some quip in a pleasant and not weird-Elizabeth Warren kind of way.

Then there's this -- liberal presidential candidates with elite pedigrees are always at risk of coming across as out-of-touch and inculcated with an ivory-tower mindset that often defies common sense. In other words,  too much Noam Chomsky; not enough Norman Rockwell.

But even though Klobuchar has the pedigree, she doesn't have the elitist swag that bedeviled Barack Obama in his Midwestern showdowns with Hillary Clinton.

Klobuchar can play with rural Democrats and, despite her socially liberal record, can easily pass for a much more moderate figure.


The beauty of Midwestern candidate with an easy, common touch is also the curse -- ask Tim Pawlenty.

They live in this weird zone of boring but kind and accessible, and it's easy to imagine that either winning you the presidency or flaming you out spectacularly like T-Paw after the Iowa straw poll.

Then there's this -- Klobuchar won't be able to raise the big donor money that Gillibrand, Warren, or Cuomo can generate, and her personality isn't likely to set on fire the small-dollar donors that she'd need to make up the deficit.

So fundraising would be a big issue.

Then there's this -- she isn't associated with a big, emotional cause that'll thrill the base; whereas, Cuomo has gay marriage and guns, O'Malley has the same, Biden has the same, and Hillary has Hillary.

Finally, there's this -- if Hillary passes and Democrats do drift in the direction of nominating a woman, Kirsten Gillibrand has everything Klobuchar has + one more important component -- sex appeal. That shouldn't matter, but it does and it's going to be Gillibrand who gets the adoring attention of The View and mags like Vogue (she's already been in both).

So ultimately, Klobuchar will face the boring factor, and you can't be boring from Minnesota and expect that couplet to give you the nomination.