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Klobuchar Pitches Unity, Moderation in Richmond Stop

Amy Klobuchar on stage at Altria Theater
Sen. Amy Klobuchar at the Altria Theater in Richmond on Saturday (Ben Paviour/VPM News)

Presidential hopeful Amy Klobuchar used a stop in Richmond on Saturday to cast herself as a pragmatist whose candidacy could uplift local Democrats.

The Minnesota senator, who trails in most polls of Virginia voters and who conceded she was unlikely to have a strong showing in South Carolina’s primary, cast herself as a good fit for Virginia's reputation for centrism. She rejected sweeping progressive plans in favor of a more measured policy approach she said stood a better chance of passing Congress and winning over moderates.

“I do not want to be the president for half of America, I want to be the president for all of America,” Klobuchar told a crowd of hundreds of people that skewed older and whiter than a rally for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders earlier this week.

She reserved most of her ire for Trump, who she said treated people “like poker chips at one of his bankrupt casinos.”

Klobuchar said it would be a mistake to scrap the Affordable Care Act, which she said polls better than President Donald Trump. Instead, Klobuchar backs a non-profit public option for health care.

Klobuchar said her candidacy could uplift moderate Democrats who flipped Republican seats in the 2018 midterms, like Congresswomen Elaine Luria (VA-02) and Abigail Spanberger (VA-07).

“I get that Abigail Spanberger district,” Klobuchar said. “I’ve talked to her about it. Because I have won in those districts.”

Spanberger has declined to endorse any Democrats. Luria, Sen. Tim Kaine former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, Congressman Bobby Scott and Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton have backed former Vice President Joe Biden.

Sen. Klobuchar badly trails in most polls of Virginia voters. A Christopher Newport University Wason Center for Public Policy poll released last week showed Klobuchar was the top choice for 5% of voters, compared to 22% for Biden.

Klobuchar will need at least 15% of the vote to win some of Virginia’s 99 delegates.

Interviews with a handful of voters at the rally suggested many were still making up their mind.

Richmond resident Harry Simmons said he liked Biden and Klobuchar, but said it was “about time” a woman ran the White House.

“She’s a fresh face,” Simmons said. “I like some of her ideas.”

Still, Simmons, he would vote for any Democrat over President Trump:

“It is crucial that the country returns to a more reasonable administration,” Simmons said.

Virginia is one of 14 states holding presidential primaries on Tuesday.

Ben Paviour covers state politics for VPM News with a focus on accountability journalism.