It’s hard to tell if Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar is actively angling for a shot at being Joe Biden’s veep pick. She’s certainly never said she would turn down the honor, but if she’s pushing for it, she’s doing it in the background and far more subtly than Stacey Abrams. (Of course, that’s a pretty low bar to surmount.) The two seem to get along well enough, and they had one of the least acerbic relationships during the debates. But Joe Biden is reportedly coming under a lot of pressure to keep her off the ticket. And at least according to some recent reporting from Politico, that pressure is coming almost entirely from Black voters, activists and strategists. So how does race factor into Klobuchar’s popularity or lack thereof?
Amy Klobuchar performed abysmally among black voters in the Democratic primary. It’s haunting her now as Joe Biden decides on a running mate.
The Minnesota Democrat has the governing experience and ideological profile to mesh well with Biden, and she’s regularly appeared as a surrogate and a fundraiser for him, raking in more than $1.5 million for a single event she headlined. The pair have a warm relationship, trading phone calls when her husband was hospitalized with Covid-19 and they didn’t tangle publicly during the primary.
But more than a dozen black and Latino strategists and activists warned in interviews that selecting Klobuchar would not help Biden excite black voters — and might have the opposite effect. Klobuchar would “risk losing the very base the Democrats need to win,” said Aimee Allison, founder of She the People, which promotes women of color in politics. They pointed to her poor performance among non-white voters during the presidential primary, as well as her record as a prosecutor in Minnesota.
Looking over the full list of complaints against Klobuchar, none of the stated reasons seem to carry much weight. The claim that she “performed abysmally” among Black voters during the primary may be true in terms of the raw numbers, but that’s a statistic that requires some context. Almost nobody was doing well with any demographic group except for Biden and Sanders toward the end. And even before that, when a few others were challenging for the lead (Buttigieg and Warren, for example), Klobuchar was rarely in the mix in a serious fashion. She may not have been drawing a lot of support among Black voters, but that’s probably because she wasn’t getting much support from anyone. And Joe Biden was sucking all the air out of the room in terms of Black support anyway.
The other agenda item being bandied about here is her time as a county prosecutor in Minnesota. For some reason, people are still bringing up the Myon Burrell case. But as I previously pointed out in great detail, they’re going after the wrong target. Klobuchar was the County Prosecutor for Burrell’s first trial, but that took place long before the potentially exculpatory evidence had ever come to light. And the first conviction was thrown out anyway. Her replacement in that job who handled the second trial where Burrell received a life sentence is the person they should be talking to.
Aside from that, Klobuchar offers very little to kvetch over among those complaining about criminal justice reform and prior relationships between the various candidates and the Black community. Both Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg had far more “sins” on their record in that regard. And I don’t see anyone trying to block Kamala Harris from the veepstakes.
Klobuchar was more in the moderate lane, so Biden’s presence in the race always dampened her chances. But it would also make them a fairly good fit in terms of being aligned on policy. As a bonus, she’s at least a woman, if not a person of color.
In the end, the only real complaint I hear coming from the “dozen black and Latino strategists and activists” that Politico spoke with seems to boil down to one thing. Klobuchar isn’t Black. And if that’s your only gripe, I would question how much of a grasp you have on policy issues or electoral strategy. But there is one aspect of the upcoming race that could indeed make Klobuchar problematic for Biden in these terms. He’s walking a fine line as he tries not to turn off the Black voters that helped push Obama over the finish line in 2008 and 2012 and the angry Sanders supporters in the progressive base. As a white moderate, Klobuchar fills neither half of the bill. So in that regard, she might be considered the worst of both worlds.