MINNEAPOLIS — Amy Klobuchar, the third-term Minnesota senator, entered the race for the Democratic presidential nomination on Sunday, hopeful that her moderate politics, Midwestern roots and carefully cultivated history of bipartisanship can appeal to a broad swath of voters in contentious times.
Ms. Klobuchar, 58, is the fifth woman currently serving in Congress to announce her candidacy, joining a crowded and diverse field of Democratic presidential hopefuls. With most of the top-tier candidates hailing from coastal states, Ms. Klobuchar believes her low-key brand of “Minnesota nice” politics could make her a compelling candidate, particularly to the Iowa voters who cast the first primary votes and in states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania that swung the 2016 election to President Trump.
A politician who prides herself on being able to “disagree without being disagreeable,” Ms. Klobuchar coasted to victory in November, beating her Republican opponent with 60 percent of the vote in a state that Mr. Trump nearly won in 2016.
Despite her friendly public persona, she’s said to be a difficult boss. A survey of senators by the website LegiStorm from 2001 to 2016 found that her office had the highest turnover in the Senate. “I have high expectations,” she told The New York Times last year. A recent HuffPost article portrayed her as a demanding manager who lost some potential 2020 campaign staff members because of her reputation.
In prepared remarks released before her event on Sunday, Ms. Klobuchar lamented the fracturing of communities across the country, “worn down by the petty and vicious nature of our politics.”
“We are all tired of the shutdowns and the put-downs, the gridlock and the grandstanding,” she planned to say. “Our nation must be governed not from chaos but from opportunity.”
While her approach may appeal to centrists and moderate Republicans in her home state, her breaks with liberal orthodoxy risk alienating the ascendant progressive wing of her party. Ms. Klobuchar backs a less expansive college affordability proposal, has not embraced Senator Bernie Sanders’s “Medicare for all” legislation and has not joined the movement to abolish the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
In the remarks released ahead of Sunday’s event, Ms. Klobuchar was expected to focus on election reforms, including a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, restoring the Voting Rights Act, and passing a law to automatically register people to vote when they turn 18.
Facing a relatively safe re-election race, Ms. Klobuchar spent most of the midterms promoting other Democrats running for office in her home state. She has made numerous visits to Iowa during her 12 years in office, most recently to push a message of “heartland economics” to rural residents and farmers, arguing that Democrats cannot afford to forget about the middle of the country.
“Minnesota matters, Wisconsin matters, Nebraska matters, Ohio matters — and, yes, Iowa matters,” she told the Iowa Farmers Union in December.
Ms. Klobuchar believes the contiguous location of her home state to Iowa could give her an advantage in the state’s caucuses, a crucial first test of the primary field. She likes to joke that she “can see Iowa from my porch.”
She grew up in the Minneapolis suburbs as the daughter of a schoolteacher and a columnist for The Minneapolis Star Tribune. After graduating from Yale and the University of Chicago law school, she returned to Minnesota to work as a corporate lawyer. The birth of her daughter, who was born with a condition that required her to remain in the hospital, plunged her into political activism. Ms. Klobuchar pushed for legislation that would guarantee new mothers a 48-hour hospital stay, a proposal that eventually became federal law. She was elected prosecutor for the state’s most populous county in 1998 and became the first elected female senator from her state in 2006.
In the Senate, Ms. Klobuchar has cultivated a worker-bee persona, not leading on divisive issues like immigration and focusing instead on curbing the cost of prescription drugs, addressing sexual harassment and protecting online privacy. A 2016 analysis found that she had passed the most laws of anyone in the Senate.
Ms. Klobuchar rose to national prominence during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing for Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, when she pressed the nominee on whether he had blacked out drinking. “Have you?” he shot back, to which she calmly replied, “I have no drinking problem, Judge.” The exchange went viral, in part because Ms. Klobuchar mentioned that her father battled alcoholism, and led to a parody on “Saturday Night Live.”