Election 2020

Amy Klobuchar Ends Presidential Campaign, Reportedly Plans To Endorse Joe Biden

Klobuchar is a cop too, though it took a little longer for her record to catch up with her.


Sunday night's rally in the Minneapolis suburbs was supposed to be a warm welcome home for U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D–Minn.) ahead of Minnesota's primary tomorrow.

Instead, crowds of protestors compelled Klobuchar to cancel the event. Less than 24 hours later, her campaign for the presidency is over—the Associated Press, CNN, and other outlets are reporting that Klobuchar will officially drop out of the race later tonight. She is expected to endorse former Vice President Joe Biden, The New York Times reports.

The fact that her campaign comes to an end on the eve of what was supposed to be a home state primary win is somewhat fitting. It was the people who know Klobuchar the best who dealt a final blow to a campaign that was already running out of steam, despite a decent showing in Iowa and a surprising third-place finish in New Hampshire.

Sunday's protests sought to call attention to Klobuchar's record on criminal justice issues, including the role she played, as a Hennepin County prosecutor, in the 2003 conviction of Myon Burrell, who was given a life sentence for the killing of an 11-year old girl struck by a stray bullet. Evidence suggests Burrell may have been wrongly convicted, and the case has become a lightning rod for Klobuchar's critics since she boasted about Burrell's conviction on the campaign trail.

Indeed, as Reason's Elizabeth Nolan Brown noted back in March 2019, Klobuchar is a cop too, just like fellow former candidate Kamala Harris. And while it took a little longer for her record to catch up with her than it did for Sen. Harris (D–Calif.), Klobuchar was ultimately undone by the gap between her record at home and the persona she peddled on the campaign trail. In Iowa and New Hampshire, she was the Midwestern Mom making bad jokes, talking about hot dish, and offering pragmatic alternatives to the pie-in-the-sky promises made by the candidates arrayed to her left. But she could never really escape the gravitational pull of her record as a county prosecutor who protected cops who killed innocent black men, opposed ending the wars on drugs and on sex work, and, as the Burrell case shows, favored harsh sentences even for underage offenders. If you didn't hear a lot about Klobuchar's record, that's only because she was never viewed as a serious enough contender for the other campaigns to spend much time going after her.

As long as there wasn't a clear sense of who would emerge as the centrist alternative to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.), Klobuchar at least had a chance to hang around in the race. Saturday's results in South Carolina—where Klobuchar finished a distant sixth with just 3.2 percent of the vote, while Biden finally seized his opportunity to take control of the Democrats' moderate lane—meant it was really just a matter of time before she suspended her campaign.

Aside from her strong finish in New Hampshire, the high point of Klobuchar's campaign was also probably the first time many Americans had met her. At a CNN town hall in February 2019, just after she'd entered the race, Klobuchar stood out for breaking with progressive Democrats on several big issues, like the Green New Deal and free college tuition.

"If I was a magic genie and could give that to everyone and we could afford it, I would," she told CNN's Don Lemon. "I've gotta tell the truth. We have a mountain of debt that the Trump administration keeps making worse and worse, and I don't want to leave that on the shoulders of these kids too."

There are no candidates in the Democratic field that can be rightfully considered deficit hawks, but Klobuchar might have been the next closest thing. She actually had a plan to tackle the growing debt—by establishing a dedicated fund to make a down payment on the debt, seeded with $300 billion she'd get by raising the corporate tax rate. And when other candidates promised trillions in new spending, it was often Klobuchar who would question how all that could be paid for.

She memorably clashed with former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg at a number of debates, culminating in a series of particularly nasty personal attacks on one another in early February. Buttigieg ended his campaign on Sunday night, so Klobuchar can go back to the Senate knowing that she at least outlasted him.

In the end, Klobuchar's 2020 campaign looks a lot like the underdog effort made by former Sen. Rick Santorum (R–Pa.) in 2012. Though Santorum lasted longer than Klobuchar, both were buoyed by an unexpectedly strong showing in Iowa, and both came across as likeable-if-unlikely alternatives to their heavyweight competitors. Santorum ended his challenge to eventual nominee Mitt Romney on the eve of the Pennsylvania primary, when polls suggested that his home state—which had handed Santorum a historically large landslide defeat for an incumbent senator in 2006—still wasn't a fan of his.

Klobuchar probably wouldn't have suffered the indignity of losing her home state on Tuesday, but she was unlikely to come close to winning anywhere else. And the protests at Sunday's rally suggest that she may have work to do at home before facing the voters again in 2024, when she's due to run for reelection to the Senate (or might make another bid for the White House).

Klobuchar's exit will come with an endorsement for Biden, but it may end up boosting Sanders more. The self-proclaimed socialist from Vermont is running second in Minnesota in most polls, with Biden a distant third or fourth. Sanders won the state by a large margin in 2016, when Minnesota used caucuses before switching to a primary this year.

There are 75 delegates up for grabs in Minnesota on Super Tuesday, and Klobuchar's sudden, unexpected departure means a race that not many may have been watching will now be one of the main prizes in what is increasingly looking like a two-horse race to the finish.