Sen. Amy Klobuchar campaigns in Nashua, N.H. | Elise Amendola/AP Photo
EXETER, New Hampshire — It’s become a familiar ritual for Amy Klobuchar — an impressive debate followed by a rush of fundraising and national media attention, then nothing.
The political establishment swoons. America passes her by.
But whether it’s because the election is in full swing now or because two other candidates — Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren — appear to be fading, Klobuchar is gaining traction in New Hampshire.
Fire officials at least twice on Sunday and Monday barred doors to Klobuchar’s rallies after crowds swelled to capacity. A Boston Globe/WBZ-TV/Suffolk University poll put her in third place in the state, ahead of both Biden and Elizabeth Warren, and an expanding pool of TV cameras circled her campaign.
Hours after the Boston Globe poll’s release, Klobuchar said to cheers at a rally in Keene that “we are now No. 3.”
Finishing in front of either Biden or Warren in Tuesday’s primary would add new life to Klobuchar’s candidacy, following a fifth-place result in Iowa. Finishing in front of both of them would almost certainly have a catalytic effect on the Minnesota senator’s campaign.
“I don’t have the biggest bank account in this race, I didn’t have the biggest name ID going into this,” Klobuchar said at a rally Monday. “But what I have is grit.”
It is possible that Klobuchar’s late surge is coming too late. She is polling in low single digits in the next two nominating states, Nevada and South Carolina, where her competitors have been amassing organizations for months. It is unclear if Klobuchar will have the money or the time to catch up, or an organization that can capitalize.
In campaign appearances in recent days, Klobuchar has described her disappointment about the outcome of President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial while celebrating the “moments of bravery” she witnessed, including Republican Sen. Mitt Romney’s vote to convict.
Her description of the proceedings at times grows emotional. And it is not hard to imagine that Klobuchar is in the midst of her own brave, but ultimately unsuccessful endeavor.
Yet following the Iowa caucuses, Klobuchar’s advisers dispatched staffers to Nevada. And her performance in the debate on Friday resulted in another infusion of money — more than $3 million in two days.
“As you probably heard, we’re on a bit of a surge,” she told a large crowd at the historic Exeter Town Hall.
Renewed interest in Klobuchar here has stemmed largely from the Friday debate, at which she derided Pete Buttigieg, the former South Bend, Indiana mayor, as a “cool newcomer” and suggested it was more difficult to govern than to lob insults at Washington politicians.
Klobuchar’s supporters see in her a Midwestern moderate who is well positioned to win over independent voters and disaffected Republicans in swing states in November.
And New Hampshire is well positioned to receive this message.
Klobuchar is aggressively courting independent voters in a state where nonaffiliated voters traditionally account for more than a third of the vote in Democratic presidential primaries.
Stopping for an interview with Fox News’ Bret Baier over the weekend, Klobuchar quickly volunteered that among the many newspaper endorsements she has received was one from the New Hampshire Union Leader, a traditionally conservative newspaper.
“That was especially for Fox News,” she joked.
But it is not Klobuchar’s ideology that she is selling principally to make a visceral connection here. It is her hardiness – in the debates, in her campaign announcement in a Minnesota blizzard last year (which she playfully tells crowds was meant to impress New Hampshire).
It is an effort to portray Klobuchar as tough enough to defeat Trump, inviting viewers to envision her running not against other Democrats, but him.
“Imagine me up on that debate stage with him,” Klobuchar urged her audience in Exeter.
For the moment, at least, her crowds like the idea. Supporters hoist signs that read “Iron Range Amy,” “Grit of a MN blizzard” and a drawing of Trump’s face, a soda bottle and the caption, “Amy is our Orange Crush.”
“Something’s happening,” New Hampshire state Rep. Willis Griffith, a supporter, said on the sidelines of a Klobuchar rally in Manchester on Sunday. “Our trajectory is going up, while a couple of others are going down.”
Klobuchar, like Warren and Bernie Sanders, was sidelined from the campaign during Trump’s impeachment trial, and acknowledges that being “bolted to that desk” kept her from the campaign at a critical time.
Though Klobuchar outperformed public opinion polls in Iowa, it was also her neighboring state and one where she had traveled extensively.
But her fifth-place finish there was close enough to Biden to be credible, and in New Hampshire she may eclipse him.
Griffith, who had been driving throughout the state for surrogate events with Klobuchar’s husband, John Bessler, said, “The timing is great.”