Klobuchar bus

Kevin Swanson (left) of Mankato signs in before hopping into a bus headed for Drake University in Iowa to support Sen. Amy Klobuchar in advance of Tuesday’s Democratic presidential primary debate. Nine local supporters rode in the van to participate in Klobuchar’s rally.

As U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar prepared Tuesday for the last Democratic presidential primary debate before the Iowa caucuses, her local supporters were ready to drive down to Des Moines to help her capture attention.

Klobuchar is polling at 6% among potential Iowa Democratic voters, a distant fifth in a primary field that has considerably shrunk over the past few weeks. Yet Klobuchar’s supporters say she’s just what the nation needs after almost four years of President Donald Trump.

“The best thing that this man has done for us, in my opinion, is make people more aware and learn our civics lessons that we might not have otherwise,” said John Klein, 72, of Mapleton.

Klein was among nine local supporters, including state Rep. Jeff Brand, DFL-St. Peter, who joined a campaign push Tuesday to drive to Drake University and rally before the seventh Democratic presidential debate. Supporters also rented Drake University’s student center to watch the debate.

Klobuchar, 59, has served as a Minnesota senator since 2006. Before her time in Congress, she was Hennepin County Attorney and worked at two Minneapolis law firms.

She has won national praise for her seemingly folksy Midwestern charm and thorough work during Senate proceedings. Klobuchar also has drawn criticism for her reluctance to embrace leftist Democratic Party goals such as Medicare for All and free higher education.

Klobuchar has yet to break into the top tier of Democratic candidates since she announced her candidacy in February 2019, and arguably her biggest moment on the campaign trail came after multiple media outlets reported on her history of being emotionally abusive toward staff members.

Klobuchar supporters have dismissed the reporting as a sexist double standard, while Klobuchar herself has said she can be a tough boss who has high expectations of people who work under her.

Shannon Lundgren, 51, of Eagle Lake, hasn’t ever gotten involved in grassroots efforts for a presidential candidate. But she said she was drawn to participate this year, just like Klein and several other Klobuchar supporters, because she didn’t like the way the country is run.

“I’m just a little nervous about the direction our country is going in, and the rest of the world,” Lundgren said.

Lundgren said Klobuchar best represents her values as a centrist, and could reasonably get Democrats and Republicans to work together rather than other candidates such as U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders or Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Klein said that centrist approach, combined with Klobuchar’s piercing questions of Supreme Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh during his controversial Senate hearings, made him a fan due to her calm, measured demeanor.

Klein also said he was attracted to Klobuchar as a candidate after she publicly described her struggles with her father’s alcoholism, something that also came up during the Kavanaugh hearings.

Supporters think Klobuchar stands the best chance of bringing in independent voters. Kevin Swanson, 64, of rural Mankato, campaigned as a younger man for Republican candidates but has shifted over time after he saw Republicans move further right on the political spectrum. And Swanson said he believes independents who supported Trump in 2016 will likely vote for a centrist candidate like Klobuchar after seeing the administration move the country further right in recent years.

“She’s level-headed,” Swanson said. “She’s a person I think who can appeal to some of the middle-of-the-road people that wouldn’t necessarily be happy about far-left politics and aren’t too happy about the far-right.”