The case for Klobuchar
There is no hard evidence that a vice presidential candidate has added significant — if any — votes to a ticket. But this year may be different. There are at least some disgruntled Trump voters up for grabs. Some will stay home, but others, in their revulsion at Trump antics, may be willing to vote for Joe Biden. They need to be comfortable with the vice-presidential nominee as well.
The Democrats, simply, must choose someone who does not make that harder, but easier. The best evidence for deciding comes from what today’s possible choices have done before in seeking office.
Given all that, choosing a vice presidential running mate should be simple and logical. The relevant questions are obvious. “Who agrees with Joe Biden on major issues? Who is most compatible with him, both personally and on the issues? Who will be content as number two, holding ambition in check?”
The corollary questions — “Where can Joe Biden win where Hillary Clinton lost? Who can help him win in November by attracting votes in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, for starters?” — are the essential political qualification. And the answer lies in flip states, not in a California or New York where Democrats are certain to win by large margins.
The answer rests in states that Hillary Clinton lost by relatively narrow margins.
(It also, of course, depends on turning out Democratic votes, including young and left. In 1968, with Vietnam protest at its height, Hubert Humphrey, came out of the ugly convention 18 points behind Richard Nixon. It was the end of August. “Never Humphrey” was their rallying cry. With people still dying in Vietnam, he lost by less than one percentage point, less than nine weeks later.)
One woman on the short-list has an election record of multiple wins with substantial numbers of swing voters: Amy Klobuchar — with strong debate performances and a brilliant challenge to Brent Kavanaugh at his confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court — has attracted broad support from centrist, moderate Democrats, but she is not offensive to the farther left.
That is not uprising. She has a liberal, but achievable, commitment to shared Democratic policies. She is not far out, but far in. She is moderate in style, but no less liberal than others under consideration.
What is surprising is what she has accomplished in her (and my) home state of Minnesota. As someone who worked for years for Hubert Humphrey and stood alongside Walter Mondale even longer, I never expected anyone to do better than my political heroes at election time. Both were immensely popular, attracting significant Minnesota Republican votes. They won in a cakewalk in their elections. Klobuchar has put frosting on that Democratic cake.
Humphrey and Mondale elections are now ancient history, but not irrelevant. The demographics of Minnesota may have changed some, but the state remains essentially the same. Swing voters can make a difference.
Amy Klobuchar has won counties Mondale and Humphrey yearned for. She has won by margins across the state, in cities and small towns that we, in the old days, simply wrote off.
She has carried red counties that neither Humphrey nor Mondale, at the heights of their popularity, did.
She did better in more liberal counties than Sen. Paul Wellstone, a hero of the left and young voters.
Klobuchar’s victories are both impressive and instructive: She was strong in the cities; she was strong in our rural area; she was strong in urban Irish Catholic wards and in rural German Catholic areas. Working class Protestants in towns and on farms cheered her and voted for her in striking numbers.
In Ramsey County, home of Sen. Eugene McCarthy, she had a 53 percent margin of victory. Mondale and Wellstone, though handily winning, drew half that.
In Dakota County, a suburban and semi-rural county, she won by 25 percent while neither Humphrey nor Mondale, in long and productive careers, ever got to a double-digit margin there.
In Hennepin County, which includes Minneapolis with a large working-class constituency, Klobuchar won by a margin of 49 percent. Neither Mondale nor Wellstone reached half that.
Running for her second term in the senate, Klobuchar carried all but two of Minnesota’s 67 counties, an unprecedented accomplishment. In her next reelection bid, she got 60 percent of the vote, seven percentage points more than the winning governor.
She ought to be Joe Biden’s running mate.
She adds to the ticket where it will count: in key, swing states and, thus, in the Electoral College.
Despite all that, one should ask again: Does it really matter who Joe Biden picks as his running mate? Maybe not, but with Trump in the White House, it might. It doesn’t require massive new votes in California (Democrats got 61.7 percent last time) or New York (Democrats got 59 percent) or Massachusetts (60 percent).
It requires someone who attracts Trump-fatigued Republicans in a few states: Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, for example.
Amy Klobuchar fits in those states. She is strongly liberal (a fact too often ignored in a slogan-driven atmosphere), but moderate in presentation and explanation.
If she were to become president, the country would cheer a woman of commitment, competence, and decency.
Amy Klobuchar advocates achievable social programs all Democrats, left, right, and center, passionately want.
She doesn’t have to fly to every corner of the country to make a winning difference on election day.
The Biden campaign should pick her and then rent her a tour bus, get her the GPS equivalent of three old road maps, put her husband (recovered from the virus that President Trump has managed so well) as back-up driver. They ought to visit every county in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, with short detours to a couple other states.
Klobuchar is qualified to be president, but before that she can — without question — help Joe Biden get there.
Norman Sherman was Vice President Hubert Humphrey’s press secretary, including during the 1968 convention and campaign. He edited Humphrey’s autobiography. During his decades in Washington, he worked in the House, Senate and Executive agencies. He has managed political campaigns in his home state of Minnesota. He held a chair at Louisiana State University as Professor of Political Communication. He is the author of “From Nowhere to Somewhere: My Political Journey,” a memoir covering his various work — paid and otherwise — for Minnesota politicians Eugene McCarthy, Walter Mondale, Wendy Anderson and Don Fraser.