Is Gillibrand the Democrats’ Best Faux-Moderate Woman?

Paul wrote earlier today about Kirsten Gillibrand’s candidacy for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. He wondered, reasonably, what Gillibrand’s market niche might be, and concluded that she is a long-shot candidate.

There is another contender for Gillibrand’s place in the market: Minnesota’s Amy Klobuchar. Klobuchar has all but declared for the 2020 nomination, and in some respects, she is a formidable candidate. She has been elected by wide margins–most recently, in November, by 60%-36% against a sacrificial Republican nominee.

And she is a prolific fundraiser. As the 2018 election drew near, she had outraised her Republican opponent by $7.4 million to $200,000. How does she do it? Well, Democrats are generally awash in cash. Beyond that, though, she is good at constituent service and knows how to come across as a moderate. Thus, she raises a lot of money from businesspeople who should know better. Last year, millions that she didn’t need were laundered and returned to Minnesota to support less popular, more obviously leftist candidates like Keith Ellison.

Klobuchar is, I think, smarter than Gillibrand. She hasn’t left behind a paper trail of flip-flops, and she maintains cordial relationships with people–me, for example–with whom she disagrees. Meanwhile, as a senator, she has voted consistently with the left. Her lifetime American Conservative Union rating is 4.71, indistinguishable from Gillibrand’s 3.99, and almost identical to Chuck Schumer’s 4.70.

Klobuchar’s moderate reputation stems from the fact that in the Senate, she has played small-ball, focusing on minor product safety issues and the like. She has avoided wading into the rhetorical swamps of the far left, even as she has voted for the most leftward viable alternative on pretty much every occasion.

As with many candidates, Klobuchar’s strength is also her weakness. The rhetorical caution that has made her acceptable to big business may doom her with the far-left Democratic Party primary electorate. Then again, the day may come when Democrats scurry for cover, appalled by the excesses of Beto O’Rourke, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Elizabeth Warren and the like. If that happens–as, for example, the flight of Democratic voters to John Kerry after Howard Dean’s famous scream–Klobuchar could be waiting in the wings.