Klobuchar battles in crowding lane for heartland voters, downplays Biden factor

Presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar says she’s not worried about Joe Biden’s entry into the jam-packed race for the Democratic nomination, as she and a growing number of candidates compete for the support of working-class voters in America's heartland.

“I welcome the vice president to the race. I’ve worked with him for years. But I’m running my own campaign and I bring something that’s different to the race,” the Democrat from Minnesota told Fox News in an interview.

Klobuchar will join Fox News Channel for a Town Hall co-anchored by Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum on Wednesday, May 8, at 6:30 p.m. ET in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Biden has quickly rocketed to the top of the polls, and his candidacy poses a particular threat to candidates like Klobuchar courting a political audience beyond the progressive base.

Both Klobuchar and Biden are considered slightly more moderate than many of the liberal-leaning 2020 contenders. And both are hoping to attract blue-collar voters in the Midwest and elsewhere who abandoned the Democratic Party in 2016 and voted for Republican nominee Donald Trump, helping him win the White House.

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It's a lane getting more crowded by the week. Klobuchar is one of three candidates from the Midwest, along with South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio.

“I’m running my own campaign and I bring something that’s different to the race,” Klobuchar said.

“I’m from the heartland. My grandpa was an iron ore miner, he worked 1,500 feet underground his whole life,” she highlighted, repeating a line she’s used throughout her presidential campaign. “I am the only candidate in the race that is a granddaughter of an iron ore miner and the daughter of a teacher and a newspaper man, the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate from the state of Minnesota, and a candidate for president.”

And she joked that she’s the only candidate who announced her candidacy for president with “12 inches of snow on the top of my head.”

Referring to her campaign launch at an outdoor event in Minnesota during a snowstorm in February, she emphasized that “no one else did that. Shows some grit.”

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Klobuchar was interviewed before she headlines the latest Fox News town hall, which will be held Wednesday in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The town hall, at 6:30 p.m. ET, will be hosted by "Special Report" anchor Bret Baier and "The Story" anchor Martha MacCallum.

“I’m always trying to reach people where they are, to go not just where it’s comfortable but where it’s uncomfortable. And I think you’ve got to run this race like you would in the general election and that’s how I’ve run my campaign,” the three-term senator explained

Klobuchar, meanwhile, has questioned calls by her progressive rivals to provide free college tuition at community colleges and some public four-year institutions and characterized popular progressive proposals such as "Medicare-for-all" and the Green New Deal as aspirational.

But a veteran Democratic strategist argued that it’s “sometimes a mistake to judge every candidate on a left-right spectrum. Clearly, voters outside of party activists are not doing that. What voters are looking for is a style of governance and a list of priorities.”

Zac Petkanas, the 2016 Hillary Clinton campaign’s director of rapid response, noted that Klobuchar has the ability to take a problem and bring up a solution to solve it “that people can understand and get behind. That’s what I think she’s offering in this race – the ability to problem solve. I think that’s the lane that she’s carving out for herself.”

Her latest proposal: tackling the opioid epidemic and the mental health crisis facing the nation. She says her plan – with a $100 billion price tag – would improve access to care and fund more research. She spotlighted her proposal during campaign stops the past couple of days in Iowa and New Hampshire, the first two states to vote in the nominating calendar.

“We’ve never had a president who actually takes this on a big way as we have done in the local and state levels,” she charged as she spoke at a roundtable discussion at a recovery center in Nashua, New Hampshire with community leaders on the front lines in battling the epidemic.

Klobuchar highlighted that “I just think it’s very important that anyone that’s running for president is willing to talk about exactly what they want to do and how they’re going to pay for it and how they’re going to get it done.”

Klobuchar spotlighted that her background -- as a former prosecutor (she served as attorney for Hennepin County, home to Minneapolis and the state’s most populous county), and as the daughter of an alcoholic father -- shaped her approach to addiction policy.

Touting her plan, she said that “I put together a proposal that I think is doable, is paid for, and will make a meaningful difference.”

While she’s yet to catch fire in the polls – the senator’s in the mid to low single digits in most public opinion surveys, including those in neighboring Iowa – Klobuchar’s not worried.

The candidate, who pitches herself as a practical politician from the Midwest, emphasized that the presidential nomination race is “a long haul” and that she’s got time on her side