Riding wave of momentum, Klobuchar lands in 3rd place in New Hampshire primary

CONCORD, N.H. — Amy Klobuchar rode a late-breaking wave of momentum over the past week to finish third in the New Hampshire primary Tuesday night, vaulting from relative obscurity into contention for the Democratic nomination for president.

Klobuchar, a 59-year-old U.S. senator from Minnesota, received 20 percent of the vote with 90 percent of the vote counted, behind Sen. Bernie Sanders at 26 percent, and Pete Buttigieg at 24 percent.

It was a stunning turn of events for Klobuchar, who finished in fifth place in the Iowa caucuses and just a week ago was in fifth place in the polling of New Hampshire voters.

“Hello America. I’m Amy Klobuchar, and I will beat Donald Trump,” Klobuchar said, introducing herself to the nation in front of a jubilant crowd of supporters at a hotel here after the results were announced. “Everyone had counted us out. … I came back and we delivered.”

“We are taking the message of unity to the country, because we know in our hearts that in a democracy it is not about the loudest voice or the biggest bank account. It is about the best idea and the person who can turn those ideas into action,” Klobuchar said.

She repeatedly referenced the words “grit” and “resilience.” She connected her hardscrabble family story to her ability to defy predictions by becoming the first woman from Minnesota elected to the U.S. Senate, and said this tough spirit was at the heart of what makes America great. 

Amy Klobuchar

“My story is nothing compared to the resilience that I’ve seen all over this country,” she said. “America deserves a president who is as resilient as her people.”

And Klobuchar explicitly referenced her desire to receive support from independents and Republicans in addition to Democrats, and promised to unite the country after four years of President Trump’s tumultuous and divisive presidency.

“Donald Trump’s worst nightmare is that the people in the middle, the people who have had enough of the name-calling and the mudslinging, have someone to vote for in November,” she said. 

Klobuchar’s surge appeared to come at the cost of support for other candidates who had looked much stronger a few months ago: Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who had only 9 percent, and former Vice President Joe Biden, who had 8.5 percent. 

“I made up my mind in the voting booth,” said Susan Zlotnick-Hale, a retired physician. “The focus has to be on getting who’s in the White House out of the White House.”

Zlotnick-Hale chose Klobuchar, she said, because “she’s competent, she has proven herself as a senator and a prosecutor, and believe it or not, yes, she’s a woman.”

Klobuchar had always seen an opportunity in New Hampshire, but a confluence of events came together more favorably for her than she could have imagined. 

Unlike in Iowa, when the Democratic presidential candidates debated each other two weeks before voters went to the caucuses, the debate in New Hampshire came just a few days before the primary. 

Klobuchar had been confident in her debate performances in the past, and was waiting for a moment when one of them could have a real impact on her chances. 

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Democratic presidential hopeful Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders speaks at a Primary Night event at the SNHU Field House in Manchester, New Hampshire on February 11, 2020. - Bernie Sanders won New Hampshire's crucial Democratic primary, beating moderate rivals Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar in the race to challenge President Donald Trump for the White House, US networks projected. (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP) (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images)
Democratic presidential candidate former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks to supporters at a primary night election rally at Nashua Community College, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Nashua, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE - FEBRUARY 11, 2020: At her election night party, Democratic Presidential Candidate Senator Amy Klobuchar speaks to her supporters on New Hampshire primary night in Concord, New Hampshire on Tuesday February 11, 2020. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
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Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., accompanied by his wife Jane Sanders, right, meets with people outside a polling place where voters will cast their ballots in a primary election, in Manchester, N.H., Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
A woman takes a Democratic ballot to vote in the New Hampshire Primary at Parker-Varney Elementary School, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
A voter steps from a booth after casting a ballot in the New Hampshire primary, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., accompanied by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., left, takes the stage at campaign stop at the Whittemore Center Arena at the University of New Hampshire, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Durham, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., accompanied by his wife Jane Sanders, depart after meeting people outside a polling place where voters cast their ballots in a primary election, in Manchester, N.H., Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., meets with people outside a polling place where voters will cast their ballots in a primary election, in Manchester, N.H., Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., accompanied by his wife Jane Sanders, depart after meeting people outside a polling place where voters cast their ballots in a primary election, in Manchester, N.H., Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., greets supporters outside a New Hampshire primary polling location, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Holly Ramer)
Residents arrive to vote in the New Hampshire primary at Bishop O'Neill Youth Center, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
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Brad Parscale, campaign manager for President Donald Trump, left, wears a red had that reads "Keep N.H. Great" as he arrives to speak on SiriusXM Satellite Radio at the Red Arrow Diner, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Brad Parscale, campaign manager for President Donald Trump, center, wears a red had that reads "Keep N.H. Great" as he arrives to speak on SiriusXM Satellite Radio at the Red Arrow Diner, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Samantha Murch, center, accompanied by her two boys Alexander, 8, and Jacob, 11, left, steps out of the voting booth for the New Hampshire primary at Bishop O'Neill Youth Center, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Samantha Murch accompanied by her two boys Alexander, 8, center, and Jacob, 11, left, votes in the New Hampshire primary at Bishop O'Neill Youth Center, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Democratic presidential candidate former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg meets with people outside a polling place where voters will cast their ballots in a primary election, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Supporters of Democratic presidential candidate former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg gather outside a polling place where voters will cast their ballots in a primary election, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Democratic presidential candidate former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg meets with people outside a polling place where voters will cast their ballots in a primary election, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
A sign that reads "Vote! Pick Up Ballot Here" is displayed at a voting precinct for the New Hampshire Primary at Parker-Varney Elementary School, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
A man arrives to vote in the New Hampshire Primary at Parker-Varney Elementary School, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Residents stand in voting booths to vote in the New Hampshire Primary at Parker-Varney Elementary School, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
A voter steps out of the booth after casting her ballot in a primary election, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Democratic presidential candidate former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks at a campaign event, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Exeter, N.H. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Actor Kevin Costner introduces Democratic presidential candidate former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg at a campaign event, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Exeter, N.H. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
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Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., accompanied by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., left, takes the stage at campaign stop at the Whittemore Center Arena at the University of New Hampshire, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Durham, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., speaks at a campaign rally for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., at the Whittemore Center Arena at the University of New Hampshire, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Durham, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Harvard Professor Cornel West speaks at a campaign rally for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., at the Whittemore Center Arena at the University of New Hampshire, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Durham, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Harvard Professor Cornel West speaks at a campaign rally for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., at the Whittemore Center Arena at the University of New Hampshire, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Durham, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Julian Casablancas, lead singer of The Strokes, performs after Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks at a campaign stop at the Whittemore Center Arena at the University of New Hampshire, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Durham, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
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Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth, D-Mass., speaks at a town hall campaign event, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Portsmouth, N.H. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth, D-Mass., speaks at a town hall campaign event, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Portsmouth, N.H. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
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A woman takes a Democratic ballot to vote in the New Hampshire Primary, Manchester, N.H., graphic element on gray
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth, D-Mass., speaks at a town hall campaign event, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Portsmouth, N.H. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
Moderator Gloria Pilotte wears a "Vote" pin during the New Hampshire Primary at Bishop O'Neill Youth Center, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
An election worker holds up an "I Voted" sticker during the New Hampshire primary at Parker-Varney Elementary School, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Residents arrive to vote in the New Hampshire primary at Bishop O'Neill Youth Center, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
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Kevin Costner arrives for a Democratic presidential candidate former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg campaign event, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Milford, N.H. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
A sign is posted in the snow ahead of a Democratic presidential candidate former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg campaign event, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Milford, N.H. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden pauses while speaking to supporters at St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020 during a campaign event in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden greet supporters during a campaign event at St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaking to supporters at St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, during a campaign event in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
A man holds a flag that reads "Veterans for Bernie 2020" outside a rally for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., at the Whittemore Center Arena at the University of New Hampshire, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Durham, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., speaks during a campaign event at Exeter Town Hall, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Exeter, N.H. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., speaks at a campaign event, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Exeter, N.H. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., laughs as she speaks at a campaign event, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Exeter, N.H. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks to members of the media on a media bus outside at a campaign stop at Rochester Opera House, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Rochester, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks to members of the media on a media bus outside at a campaign stop at Rochester Opera House, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Rochester, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
People wait for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., to speak at a campaign event, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Exeter, N.H. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., speaks at a campaign event, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Exeter, N.H. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
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New Hampshire provided the perfect storm. The debate went exceptionally well for her. Her closing statement, in which she spoke directly to voters and showed some emotion, appeared to resonate. 

“If you have trouble stretching your paycheck to pay for that rent. I know you and I will fight for you. If you have trouble deciding if you’re going to pay for your childcare or your long-term care, I know you and I will fight for you,” Klobuchar said

A senior campaign adviser to Klobuchar told Yahoo News they had raised $5 million since the Friday debate. “It can’t be overstated how important the debate was,” the Klobuchar adviser said. 

Meanwhile, Biden, coming off a fourth place finish in Iowa, essentially conceded New Hampshire before it was even close to over, saying in the opening moments of the debate that he expected to “take a hit” in the voting.

And while the Iowa result elevated Sanders and Buttigieg, it still left many Democrats — at least in New Hampshire — casting around for an option that was not as far left as Sanders, and with more experience than Buttigieg.

Klobuchar, rather than Warren, was the beneficiary, indicating a preference in the Granite State for a moderate Midwestern rather than a Northeast liberal. Klobuchar’s finish was all the more impressive given that Warren had a significant organizing presence in this state, in large part because of her ability to draw volunteers from her neighboring home state. 

New Hampshire has a unique system, a semi-open primary in which over 400,000 voters out of 980,720 are undeclared and can vote in either party primary. The absence of a Republican primary pushed undeclared voters who might have otherwise voted in a GOP primary into the Democratic contest, which is likely to have played to Klobuchar’s advantage as well.

Amy Klobuchar

The question now for Klobuchar is how she will weather the attacks on her record as a prosecutor in Hennepin County starting in 1998. Those began in earnest even before the vote was counted in New Hampshire, during an appearance by Klobuchar on ABC’s “The View.”

Sunny Hostin, one of the co-hosts on “The View,” pressed Klobuchar about her role in the 2002 prosecution of Myon Burrell, a 16-year old African-American teenage boy who was sentenced to life in prison for shooting an 11-year old girl. 

“It is one of the most flawed investigations and prosecutions that I think I have ever seen,” Hostin told Klobuchar.

Klobuchar said that “all of the evidence needs to be immediately reviewed in that case,” but Hostin pressed her on what she will do to make that happen. 

And that issue will be of intense interest to voters in the next two states in this process: Nevada and South Carolina. 

South Carolina, in particular, has a huge number of African-Americans in its Democratic electorate. And much has been made within the Democratic Party of the fact that the first two contests in Iowa and New Hampshire have shaped the race without any voting in states with any significant minority populations.

“Each time I come to New Hampshire, I say, yes this is very much America, but it’s different. You got a whole lot of beautiful vanilla brothers and sisters in New Hampshire. You don’t see too many Jamals and Latishas,” said Cornel West, a philosophy professor at Harvard who is a prominent surrogate for Sanders, at a get-out-the-vote event Tuesday morning. 

On CNN, former South Carolina state Sen. Bakari Sellers urged pundits to “slow down and let some black people vote.”

Seven of the Democratic U.S. Presidential candidates including former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders, walk arm-in-arm with local African-American leaders during the Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) Day Parade in Columbia, South Carolina on January 20, 2020.  (Randall Hill/Reuters)

Buttigieg has his own problems with minority voters. His support from African-Americans has been abysmal, probably due in part to issues with the black community in South Bend. 

But Klobuchar scored very well in exit polls among voters who said their highest priority is a candidate who can unite the county, and who can beat President Trump. She led Buttigieg 31 percent to 29 percent on who can unite the country, and trailed him 21 percent to 27 percent on who can beat Trump.

Warren’s decline may give Sanders an edge in consolidating the left wing of the party, but there may be a significant number of Warren voters who switch to Klobuchar or Buttigieg as well. Biden’s voters are probably more likely to move to Klobuchar or Buttigieg.

And while Klobuchar and Buttigieg battle it out, they have to worry also about the billionaire hedge fund manager Tom Steyer and even more so about former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg — also a billionaire — who may see those candidates as small obstacles in the path to the nomination. 

Michael Filler, a 63-year-old retired school psychologist, was at the Klobuchar primary night event on Tuesday evening. He had chosen to support her back in November but told Yahoo News he had been “discouraged” until the last few days.

“The surge is pretty surprising,” he said. “I really think it was that darn debate performance.”

Filler said he worries about Klobuchar’s ability to keep her campaign financed, but that if she can get a look from the next few states, she has a shot at winning the nomination. He said he felt pretty good about Klobuchar’s ability to stand toe to toe with Trump in a debate.

“It was easy to do with Clinton, because nobody liked her anyways,” Filler said. “But if he did it with Amy, she’s likable, and she’s got a sense of humor.”

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