In Santa Monica, Amy Klobuchar pitches electability, infrastructure, punchlines
SANTA MONICA — Amy Klobuchar is trying to grab Democrats’ attention with lots of funny lines and one seriously big infrastructure plan.
The Minnesota senator smartly led with the jokes when she introduced herself to Southern California voters Monday afternoon in a “Meet the Candidate” event hosted by the Santa Monica, Malibu and Pacific Palisades Democratic clubs.
“There are things our two states have in common, just so you know.” said Klobuchar, who declared her presidential candidacy in February in a Minneapolis snowstorm. “You guys have this beautiful solar-powered Ferris wheel (on the Santa Monica Pier) — very famous. And we have the world’s largest ball of twine.”
Campaigning in Southern California for the first time, Klobuchar became at least the 12th Democratic candidate to stump in the region this year. She and 13 opponents are scheduled to speak at the California Democratic Convention in San Francisco on Saturday. The state’s primary looms more important than usual after being moved up in the order from June to March 3, 2020.
Klobuchar, 59, ranks seventh in fundraising and about the same in national and California polls of Democratic voters among the 24 major candidates competing to be the one to take on President Trump in 2020.
After acknowledging she’s an “underdog,” Klobuchar told the audience at the Santa Monica Public Library’s Martin Luther King Auditorium that she’s the candidate who could bring Midwest states into to the Democratic column if she’s the party’s nominee, and that her relative success at passing bills in the Republican-led Senate shows she would be a president who could work with the GOP to get things done.
Topping her to-do list, she said, would be a $1 trillion program to rebuild the U.S. infrastructure, including roads, bridges, railways, waterways, public transit, housing, schools and internet connectivity.
Infrastructure, Klobuchar said, is an example of a problem Trump promised to tackle but has failed to take on because it would require rolling back some tax cuts.
Speaking with reporters after her 45-minute talk and public Q&A session, Klobuchar said $400 billion for infrastructure could come from raising the corporate tax rate from 21% to 25% and another $150 billion from changes in international taxes.
“I sure don’t think it will be hard to sell infrastructure to California, when you look at some of the traffic jams you guys get in all the time,” said Klobuchar, who said her plan would also bring internet broadband service to rural parts of the state.
The second-term senator said proposing the infrastructure plan is one way she seeks to distinguish herself from the many other Democrats running for president.
Standing out from the crowd is the main challenge for less well-known candidates, said Tom Hogen-Esch, a political science professor at Cal State Northridge.
“I think she’s still in the game. Everybody’s chasing the name recognition of Joe Biden,” said Hogen-Esch, referring to the former vice president who leads the Democratic polls.
The event came a day after a comment by Klobuchar about John McCain drew fire from the late Arizona senator’s daughter Meghan. Klobuchar had talked in an Iowa campaign appearance last weekend about hearing John McCain “reciting to me the names of dictators” during Trump’s inaugural speech. Meghan McCain tweeted that Klobuchar should “leave my father’s legacy and memory out of presidential politics.”
Klobuchar told reporters Monday she has “deep respect for his family, and of course I’ll continue to talk about our work together.”
That was the second controversy Klobuchar has encountered this year. In February, news reports portrayed her as unusually hard on staff members. The reports smudged her “Minnesota nice” image.
The Santa Monica event featured fewer vociferous supporters than most candidates’ appearances. It appeared that the audience of about 120 was made up largely of Democrats still scouting the field. (Dozens more were shut out of the small venue, and Klobuchar addressed them before going inside.)
In interviews, several praised Klobuchar’s performance in the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and said she’s the sort of “moderate” Democrat who can get elected.
Sara Cannon, a Santa Monica resident, said she went in preferring Biden but came out planning to vote for Klobuchar.
“Common sense and sanity,” Cannon said. “She knows her issues. She’s forceful. … She knows how to work with people.”
But Bob Cannon, Sara’s husband, was less sold.
“I don’t think she’s an Obama. She’s not inspiring,” he said. “Would I vote for her? Sure. But I like Biden a lot. I still like (Elizabeth) Warren.”
A Quinnipiac University poll of taken in early April showed Klobuchar to be the choice of 2% of California Democrats.
Klobuchar, who says humor is one way to deal with adversaries, addressed her uphill battle with a one-liner.
“May the best woman win.”