- - Tuesday, February 12, 2019


Amy Klobuchar, the Democratic senator from Minnesota, announced her candidacy for president the other day and several Republican colleagues were prominent among those who noticed. If the Republican side of the U.S. Senate were an oil field, Mrs. Klobuchar hit a gusher.

A dozen Republican senators were so effusive in their praise — “for her personality, her respect for the other party, even her competitiveness in a general election,” as Politico, the Capitol Hill political daily, described it — some of the swooning senators worry they may be damaging her attempt to get a campaign started.

“I hope I’m not condemning her nascent run for the presidency,” says Sen. John Cornyn of Texas. “She’s too reasonable, too likable, too nice.” Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri agrees. “I like her a lot and hope that’s not harmful to her.” Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia says she’s “a person of character and great ability. She’s the whole package. That’s probably too nice.”

It’s certainly rare for Republican senators to throw lacy Valentines across the aisle, but it’s not easy to be a Republican in Washington. Unrequited love is but a pale copy of the real thing, but it beats no love at all. The object of this woo all sublime does not necessarily return it. Her politics usually wouldn’t warm a Republican heart.

She has been widely described in the press as a “moderate,” though this is accurate only in a place where Bernie Sanders strikes the average. Actually, Mrs. Klobuchar, a lawyer and once a prosecutor, is a down the line liberal — hostile to gun rights, militantly pro-abortion, supporter of the Iran nuclear deal, and eager for the United States to rejoin the Paris climate accord. Indeed, Mrs. Klobuchar made climate change a priority in her kickoff announcement, delivered in a snow storm, and supports Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s widely mocked “Green New Deal.” On health care, she supports Obamacare but has not signed on to “Medicare for All,” and she’s not as gaga over the radical left as many Democrats seem to be. “If we’re looking for a transformational leader and someone who’s going to elevate big, bold ideas and systemic change,” says Adam Green of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, “other candidates like Elizabeth Warren seem to fit the bill a little bit more head on.”

She has earned a reputation as an old-fashioned dealer in retail politics, with a low-key demeanor and no nonsense mien. She was re-elected to the Senate last year with 60 percent of the vote. In 2012 she had performed even better, taking 65 percent and winning all but two of the state’s 87 counties. Her record, with Minnesota next door to Iowa’s first in the nation caucuses, might give her an advantage.

But her work is cut out for her, as for everyone else. The crowded field guarantees surprises, particularly when everyone will need a scorecard to find a face in the crowd.

Nice words by the Republican senators could be setting her up to take the fall at the hands of Democrats. Love from the right is surely a liability on the left. “She doesn’t strike me as ideological enough to be competitive,” says John Cornyn. Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina says “she has a legitimately centrist argument to make, but she’s going to find herself in a field [where the players] are going to out-liberal [each other].”

This does not appear to be a season for nice. Rancor invites rancor, and there’s plenty of that in the air. Still, it’s also the season for amour, and a lady, even a United States senator, never complains of too many Valentines.

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