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Amy Klobuchar drops out of the 2020 presidential race

Her pragmatic pitch didn’t resonate with enough voters.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar waves as she leaves the stage after speaking during a campaign rally in Richmond, Virginia, on February 29, 2020.
Zach Gibson/Getty Images
Li Zhou is a politics reporter at Vox, where she covers Congress and elections. Previously, she was a tech policy reporter at Politico and an editorial fellow at the Atlantic.

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, despite a last-minute surge in the polls and a surprisingly strong performance in New Hampshire, has dropped out of the Democratic presidential race. She will endorse former Vice President Joe Biden during an event in Dallas on Monday, a campaign spokesperson told Vox.

Following a sluggish start, Klobuchar ultimately established herself as a prominent moderate in the race who occupied a similar lane to Biden and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg (who also dropped out after the South Carolina primary). She lagged a number of other competitors for the majority of the primary campaign but picked up momentum in recent weeks after a series of strong debate showings — and a third place finish in New Hampshire.

Her decision to drop out follows disappointing performances in both Nevada and South Carolina, where she failed to pick up backing from voters of color and came in sixth in both states.

Supporters of Sen. Amy Klobuchar sit and wait after her rally was cancelled after being disrupted by protestors on March 1, 2020 in St Louis Park, Minnesota.
Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Throughout her campaign, Klobuchar had pitched herself as a pragmatic lawmaker who gets results: One of her go-to talking points highlighted how she’s passed more than 20 bills during President Donald Trump’s administration.

She’s also hewed much closer to the center, shying away from a number of progressive policy priorities including Medicare-for-all and tuition-free college. Instead, she championed a public option and focused on growing access to free community college and Pell Grants. In the past, her policy proposals have centered on antitrust and consumer protection, and she has called on tech companies to offer more transparency around online advertising and data privacy.

For months, too, Klobuchar has faced critiques about alleged abuse toward her staff, claims she’s responded to by arguing that she pushes her staff to work hard.

Klobuchar, who was a Hennepin County attorney before she was elected to the Senate in 2006, is a hugely popular lawmaker in Minnesota and was once viewed as one of the candidates best poised to reach voters in the Midwest.

As Vox’s Ella Nilsen wrote, Klobuchar emphasized these electability bona fides as part of the arguments she made for her candidacy:

Klobuchar’s case to voters: She has a record of handily winning elections (and Trump counties) in her home state of Minnesota, a state she likes to point out also has a history of electing to executive office controversial figures with a penchant for drama, like former Gov. Jesse Ventura.

A dearth of support in more diverse states coupled with intense competition, however, appears to have hindered her ability to fully break out. Klobuchar will continue serving in the Senate, where she is next up for reelection in 2024.

Klobuchar has a strong track record of winning but she struggled in a crowded field

Klobuchar’s past performance had been cited as a central reason she could have been a strong presidential candidate: In 2018, she overwhelmingly won reelection in Minnesota and performed strongly in more than 40 counties that also went for Trump in 2016. As Vox’s Matt Yglesias noted, she does better — at least in Minnesota — than other Democrats:

Back in 2012, Obama won 53 percent of the vote in Minnesota. Klobuchar won 65 percent. Back in 2006, Tim Pawlenty narrowly defeated his Democratic opponent for governor in a race that also saw a significant third-party vote. Klobuchar won 58 percent of the vote in a landslide win that was also the narrowest of her three statewide runs.

Plus, she’s long been focused on promoting bipartisan bills and efficacy in Congress: The policy proposals she rolled out as a candidate are a testament to this approach. They included a massive infrastructure plan aimed at modernizing broadband and roads, and a 100-day list centered on priorities like reducing prescription drug prices and rejoining the Paris climate accord.

Klobuchar, the first woman Minnesota has elected to the Senate, was also part of a historically diverse class of women and people of color vying for the presidency. During her time as a candidate, she repeatedly highlighted issues tied to gender equity including the double standard that men and women face in order to be considered seriously as lawmakers.

A member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Klobuchar was known for her direct confrontation of Brett Kavanaugh during his Supreme Court confirmation hearing, when she asked him if he’d ever blacked out from drinking and he snapped back at her. With several years left in her term, she’s poised to continue pushing her pragmatic approach in Congress.

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