Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar ended her Democratic presidential campaign on Monday and endorsed rival Joe Biden in an effort to unify moderate voters behind the former vice president's 2020 bid.
She appeared with Biden at a rally in Dallas on Monday night, saying that it was time to “bring dignity and decency back to the White House.” She said Americans need a president who will represent all America and who understands that “service is not about self-interest.”
Her voice cracking, Klobuchar said, “I cannot think of a better way to end my campaign than by joining (Biden's).”
Klobuchar's exit reflects an urgent push among moderates to consolidate behind Biden as a counter to progressive rival Bernie Sanders. Pete Buttigieg ended his campaign on Sunday and will also join Klobuchar and Biden in Dallas later Monday.
Klobuchar outlasted several better-known and better-funded Democrats, thanks to a better-than-expected third-place finish in New Hampshire. But she couldn't turn that into success elsewhere, as she struggled to build out a campaign that could compete across the country and had poor showings in the next contests.
The three-term senator had one of this cycle's more memorable campaign launches, standing outside in a Minnesota snowstorm last February to tout her “grit” and Midwestern sensibilities. Klobuchar argued that her record of getting things done in Washington and winning even in Republican parts of her state would help her win traditionally Democratic heartland states like Wisconsin and Michigan that flipped in 2016 to give Donald Trump the presidency.
She was hoping to own the moderate lane of a Democratic field that grew to some two dozen candidates. But that got much tougher when Biden joined the race in April, starting as a front-runner and remaining there. Klobuchar also was quickly overshadowed by Buttigieg, a fellow Midwesterner who shot from being the largely unknown mayor of South Bend, Indiana, to a top contender on a mix of intelligence, strong oratory and youthful optimism.
Klobuchar entered the race with low name recognition compared with many of her rivals, a disadvantage she was still citing a year into her campaign. Outside Minnesota, the lawyer and former prosecutor was best known for her questioning of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh during a 2018 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.
Klobuchar asked Kavanaugh, who was accused of sexually assaulting a fellow teenager when both were in high school, if he ever had so much to drink that he didn't remember what happened. Kavanaugh retorted, “Have you?” Klobuchar continued, unruffled, and Kavanaugh later apologized to the senator, whose father is recovering from alcoholism.
Even before she got into the race, Klobuchar was hit with news stories claiming she mistreated her Senate staff, and she had a higher-than-usual turnover rate in her office. Klobuchar said she is a “tough boss” but countered that she has several longtime employees, including the manager of her presidential campaign.
She also faced questions over her prosecutor past. In January, The Associated Press published a story about Klobuchar's office in Minneapolis having prosecuted the case of a black teenager accused of the 2002 shooting death of an 11-year-old girl. Klobuchar has cited the story to show her toughness on crime. But an AP/APM Reports investigation uncovered new evidence and myriad inconsistencies, raising questions about whether Myon Burrell was railroaded by police. The issue followed Klobuchar on the campaign trail, with protesters forcing her to cancel a rally in suburban Minneapolis days before Super Tuesday.
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Klobuchar campaigned on her productivity in Washington, where she led more than 100 bills that were signed into law. And she criticized the more liberal candidates in the field, Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Sanders, for running on promises she said they couldn't keep.
Rather than advocate for “Medicare for All,” for example, Klobuchar favored expanding the Affordable Care Act and working to reduce prescription drug costs — changes she said had a chance of passing and would make a significant impact. She supported making community colleges free but said she wouldn't promise to do the same for four-year colleges and universities because the U.S. cannot afford it.
“I've got to tell the truth,” she said during a CNN town hall at a college campus, where she acknowledged her position may be unpopular with younger voters.
Klobuchar was one of the first candidates to outline a plan for addressing addiction and mental health, an issue she described as personal because of her father's longtime struggle. Her accounts of growing up with a father suffering from alcoholism and watching him be forced to choose between prison or treatment were some of the most compelling moments of speeches, interviews and discussions with voters. Klobuchar said that her father described getting help as being “pursued by grace” and that it's an opportunity all people fighting addiction deserve.
But Klobuchar couldn't match her top competitors in fundraising. She raised about $11 million in the last quarter of 2019 — roughly half of what Sanders and Buttigieg received. The lack of finances early on in the campaign meant Klobuchar wasn't able to expand her operation on the ground in Iowa and New Hampshire until months after her rivals. She then scrambled to put an operation in place in Nevada, South Carolina and the 14 states that will vote on Super Tuesday.
Still, there were bright spots, including strong debate performances that helped bring in new donors. Her campaign credited Klobuchar's showing in a debate days before the New Hampshire primary with helping her clinch a better-than-expected third place in the state's primary, topping Warren and Biden. Klobuchar said she raised $12 million in the next week.
During one debate, she addressed sexism in the campaign, questioning whether a woman with Buttigieg's experience would qualify for the stage. She also pushed back at fears of a female candidacy, saying, “If you think a woman can’t beat Donald Trump, (House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi does it every day.”
In January, she earned endorsements from The New York Times, which also endorsed Warren, and the Quad-City Times, one of Iowa's largest newspapers. But Klobuchar was sidelined for much of the last few weeks before the Iowa caucuses when she — along with fellow candidates Warren, Sanders and Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado — was stuck in Washington for the Senate impeachment trial.
She continued to rack up endorsements even as her campaign struggled, getting the backing of newspapers including the Houston Chronicle, The Seattle Times and the New Hampshire Union Leader.
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Updated Nov. 20, 2019
Note: Incorrect information about Michael Bennet’s cancer diagnosis and titles for Joe Sestak and William Weld have been revised on July 29, 2019, 3:17 p.m. ET.
Credit: Jo Bruni, Emma Barnett, Asher Klein, Dan Macht, Kelly Zegers / NBC; Photos: Getty Images