Is Amy Klobuchar the most boring candidate for president in recent memory? The senator has announced that her campaign reached the threshold required to advance to the next round of Democratic debates. With the intentionally drowsy campaign strategy she seems to be pursuing, however, her next appearance may send viewers to sleep come September.
It’s one thing to position yourself as the sane, sober candidate who refuses to resort to cheap theatrics like Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) walking illegals over our border, or Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) pandering and flip-flopping on every buzz issue imaginable. But presenting yourself as human paint for voters to watch dry is hardly the proper contrasting image to such buffoonery. It seems to go beyond “this is just her personality;” one can’t help but conclude that Klobuchar is deliberately running so low-key that no one can possibly hear her.
Standing On a Thimble
Klobuchar’s fatal flaw is her lack of name recognition among most of the country at large – something of which she seems to be unaware. Yes, she is in her third term as a U.S. senator. But like so many of the minnows running for president, Klobuchar hasn’t distinguished herself in any substantial way that would allow her to stand out from the pack based on political record alone. As a 12-year-plus member of what has been largely regarded as a do-nothing Congress, Klobuchar cannot simply rely on her “senatorial bearing” to see her through. She has to make a strong impact on the campaign trail. She must connect with voters beyond her Minnesota confines by offering a genuine alternative to the rest of the crowded Democratic field.
But is there anything unique that Klobuchar brings to the table? She would like to position herself as a centrist progressive, yet she isn’t really challenging any of the core leftist totems that dominate the party’s grassroots. Her stances on hot-button issues such as immigration and climate change won’t noticeably ruffle any progressive feathers. Her only claim to being “moderate” seems to be in rejecting easily challenged ideas like free college and Medicare for All. While that may show she is not as unhinged as some of her rivals, it hardly makes a case for Klobuchar as a bold independent willing to buck party norms.
Bland Won’t Beat Trump
In an interview with a Minneapolis CBS affiliate after the second Dem debate, Klobuchar was directly asked how she can overcome the perception that she is boring. The fact that she is still being asked such a question after six months of campaigning and two nationally televised debate performances did not seem to disturb the senator. “I need time, and that’s what I’ve got,” she replied. “I’ve got this rest of the year going into the caucuses to make my case. That people have had in the White House someone who is constantly using one-liners and tweets, many times to be divisive. And they’ve had it. A lot of them don’t even want their kids to watch it on TV. And I’ve got to make the case that I’m different. I don’t want to be like this guy that’s in the White House. I want to be honest with people and tell them the truth.”
When asked later in the interview what misconceptions there may be about her, Klobuchar immediately responded, “Well, first of all, I’m not that boring.” OK, good, she recognizes the problem. Her reasoning to dispel that notion, however, was pure cringe. “I’ve done all the humor dinners in Washington,” she said. Wince.
Maybe that statement is all the explanation we need. Klobuchar is not unlikable; she does not publicly evince an off-putting harshness a la Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Kamala Harris (D-CA). Nor does she seem an imperious technocrat in the mold of disastrous 1988 Dem nominee Michael Dukakis. Nevertheless, the deadening dullness of her campaign does not create a stand-out image. Above all, Klobuchar comes off as a process person. She is the student in class who has learned that regurgitating what she has been told is a ticket to an A, but who never really learns to think for herself along the way. Nothing comes from the heart. She carries the air of one who believes that if she does A, B, and C, then D will happen.
But that’s not going to happen in 2020 for the simple reason that Klobuchar lacks the required national clout that would grant her the luxury of letting her process unfold. Despite what she believes, time is not on her side. In politics, you only get so many failed impressions before you are knocked out. With her tepid, somnambulant performance defining her candidacy up to this point, Amy Klobuchar is just about out of moments.