The surprise of the New Hampshire primary was Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).
Klobuchar, who has struggled to break into the top tier of the Democratic presidential field, finally did so Tuesday, as she was set to place in the top three candidates as results rolled in.
“Thank you, New Hampshire!” she said to an enthusiastic crowd gathered at her campaign party in Concord. “We love you, New Hampshire! Hello, America! I’m Amy Klobuchar, and I will beat Donald Trump.”
“While there are ballots left to count, we have beaten the odds every step of the way,” she added.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg were leading as the majority of precincts were tallied, while Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and former Vice President Joe Biden ― both considered front-runners at various times ― dropped below Klobuchar.
Klobuchar has seen a rise in the polls lately, with voters in New Hampshire saying they were especially impressed by her debate performance Friday.
“She was super, and I’d love to see a woman in office,” a voter at a town hall event for Buttigieg said Saturday in Keene, New Hampshire.
“I’ve been getting texts all day from friends who saw her at the debate, who saw her at a [New Hampshire Democratic Party] dinner, who are heading in her direction,” Rich Sigel, an attorney from Manchester who backs Klobuchar, said at her event Sunday night. “She’s the little engine that could.”
Klobuchar’s big moments at the debate were when she took aim at Buttigieg, who is leading in the delegate count out of the Iowa caucuses. (Klobuchar came in fifth, but the results aren’t yet official.)
She called into question his experience as a 38-year-old former mayor of a city with just over 100,000 people, and she blasted him for saying that he found the coverage of the Senate impeachment trial so “exhausting” that it made him want to watch cartoons instead.
“You said it was exhausting to watch and that you wanted to turn the channel and watch cartoons,” Klobuchar said, telling Buttigieg that the remark may have made him look “like a cool newcomer” but that it wasn’t appropriate.
“I don’t think that’s what people want right now. We have a newcomer in the White House, and look what that got us,” she said.
But Klobuchar’s path forward is tough. She has not built up the national campaign operation that the other top-tier candidates have, and she so far has little support from communities of color ― a major problem because the upcoming states are far more diverse than Iowa and New Hampshire.
A Quinnipiac University poll released Monday found her polling at 0% among African Americans.
Though Klobuchar has had bursts of online donations, she doesn’t have the same base of small-dollar donors that candidates like Warren and Sanders possess.
“Even though Amy Klobuchar had a great night, it’s quite possible this is the best night of the entire campaign for her,” said David Plouffe, an architect of President Barack Obama’s wins, on MSNBC Tuesday night. “Because she has to put together a national campaign overnight.”
“I don’t have that big bank account. I don’t have that big name as some of the other people that are in this race. And I am not a newcomer with no political record,” Klobuchar said, referring to her rivals. “But what I do is get things done. What I have is your back.”