For Amy Klobuchar, the surge in the ballot box is all about timing

For the long-shot presidential hopeful, Tuesday night was a win. But Sanders supporters are not giving up so fast.

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Senator Klobuchar speaks to supporters at her New Hampshire primary night rally in Concord (photo credit: REUTERS)
U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Senator Klobuchar speaks to supporters at her New Hampshire primary night rally in Concord
(photo credit: REUTERS)
MANCHESTER, New Hampshire – The parking lot outside the Courtyard Hotel in Concord started to fill up quickly as the results poured in. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, seen just a couple of weeks ago as a long-shot candidate, was now in third place in the New Hampshire Democratic primary, with more votes than former vice president Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren combined. For her, Tuesday night was a win.
It was a win even though Bernie Sanders was the true winner of the Democratic presidential primary, beating out Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who won last week’s messy Iowa caucuses. Moderate rival Biden finished in a disappointing fifth place.
Klobuchar, who rode a wave of momentum from a strong debate on Friday and finished in third place, won 20% of the vote behind Buttigieg’s 25%. Her success was a surprise even to her supporters.
Over a plate of cheese, crackers and antipasti, Michelle Tyler, from Manchester, told The Jerusalem Post she could feel Klobuchar – her candidate – gaining momentum.
“I think people finally realize what Amy has to bring to the table. She has grit, she has empathy, and she has experience. And the combination of those three things is what we need in the White House,” she said. “I can only speak for myself. As a working mom with five children, by the way, from the very first debate she drew me in. She caught my attention.”
Tyler added that she also likes Biden, “but, honestly, I think age is a factor, and it is what it is.” The Scranton, Pennsylvania-born Biden is 77.
The results provided no clear answers for Democrats trying to decide whether their best choice to challenge Trump would be a moderate like Buttigieg, Klobuchar or Biden, or Sanders or Warren, who represents neighboring Massachusetts.
Turnout in New Hampshire approached the record 287,000 who cast ballots in the 2008 Democratic primary, when the battle between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton energized the party. That could ease Democratic concerns about smaller-than-expected turnout in Iowa.
Alan Canter, a consultant to nonprofit organizations from Concord, told the Post that he volunteered for Klobuchar for the past six weeks, primarily knocking on doors.
“Today I stood on the ice most of the day, and then I got the results from my ward, which she won,” he said. “I was shocked, but I knew it was a good day for her because she had done so well in the debate, and at the events I went to she was terrific. You feel this momentum going, and more and more people I knew were leaving Joe Biden or deciding between Amy and Elizabeth Warren, and they all just started falling in line.”
People, Canter said, were finally paying attention.
“There’s an old line that in real estate, the three most important things are location, location, location. Maybe in politics, it’s timing, timing, timing,” he continued. “It probably also helped that any newspaper in New Hampshire that gave an endorsement gave it to her, including the very conservative Manchester Union Leader. She is the candidate who Republicans and moderates and independents are not afraid of. In the general election she would fare very well.”
Canter said that he is Jewish but unaffiliated and is not a member in any of the local synagogues. “I call Pete Buttigieg a ‘pisher’ [Yiddish for young and inexperienced] because he’s aspiring above his station,” he added, jokingly. “My late mother, who spoke Yiddish, would’ve called him the little pisher. He’s just not experienced enough to be president, and he’s reaching above his lot.”
He said that he is worried about a possible win by Bernie Sanders.
“I’m terrified that Bernie Sanders would win because he would give a Donald Trump a new term,” he said. “It would be a terrible campaign. So, I would like there to be some coalescing around Amy. Bernie is just too extreme and would alienate people.”
Twenty-five minutes away, in Manchester, hundreds of Sanders’s supporters were leaving the SNHU Arena after it reached its 11,770-seat capacity. Outside, a few dozen stayed, hoping people would leave and they would be able to take their spot. Volunteers and supporters were calling people they knew inside, asking for help to get in.
Mark Cane from Nashua said that he worked hard “to get the first working-class president into office.”
“We knocked [on] doors. We were [organizers of] ‘get out the vote,’” he said.
Asked about his feelings watching Sanders win New Hampshire, Cane said: “It is almost as good as last time,” in reference to 2016, when Sanders also won New Hampshire, but lost the nomination. “We need to have a fair process. The Democratic Party is keeping their thumb off the scale,” he said.
Asked about Klobuchar and Buttigieg’s message that only a centrist figure could win the presidency, he said: “Well, we had someone who was non-aspirational last time. And how did that work? People stayed home. Mrs. Clinton lost places that Barack Obama won. We need an aspirational candidate that cares about working with people.”
Eli Mor Yosef from southern Maine has been volunteering for Sanders for the past few months. Like Cane, he said that he does not believe the party needs a centrist nominee.
“A centrist lost to Trump last time, and all the data said that Bernie would’ve beat Trump at the time, but the DNC chose Hillary instead. At the time it was looking like she wouldn’t be able to beat him. And we were right,” he continued. “We just don’t need another centrist in the White House based on where we’re at as a country right now.”
He told the Post he appreciates Israel’s universal healthcare, having spent several months in Israel when his late father, a citizen, was treated for cancer in hospitals there.
Asked about Sanders’s position toward Israel, such as considering the transfer of the US Embassy back to Tel Aviv from Jerusalem, or cuts to military assistance, Mor Yosef said: “As a Jewish person with family in Israel, I am voting for Bernie with love for Israel in my heart, because I’ve been there several times and I know how wonderful it is, and how incredible the people are. I don’t think Bernie aims to hurt the people, because he speaks highly of Israel at times as well. I support Israel. I support the Palestinians and I’m voting for Bernie.”
For Sanders, who won New Hampshire in 2016 with 60% of the vote against eventual nominee Hillary Clinton, the results offered new momentum but not the overwhelming win he had hoped for, given his history in the state.
Exit polls showed he won only about two-thirds of his 2016 primary supporters.
Up next will be the February 22 caucuses in Nevada, which has a large Latino population, and the February 29 primary in South Carolina, which has a large African-American population.
“We have beaten the odds every step of the way,” Klobuchar told supporters in Concord. “Because of you, we are taking this campaign to Nevada. We are going to South Carolina. And we are taking this message of unity to the country.”
Warren said it would be a long, drawn-out battle for the nomination, and the race was far from over. She decried the party’s infighting and called for unity as the contest moves on.
“These tactics might work if you’re willing to burn down the party to be the last man standing,” Warren said in Manchester. “We win when we come together.”
Reuters contributed to the report.