Senator Amy Klobuchar is on the rise, at least in New Hampshire. On the eve of the state’s primary, her poll numbers have surged, besting both Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden in two new surveys. The Emerson College and Suffolk University polls have Klobuchar at 14 percent respectively, putting her at third place behind Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders in each.
Klobuchar was already making modest gains in the state even before her widely praised debate performance on Friday night, which left pundits like MSNBC’s Chris Matthews salivating. The Klobuchar campaign reports it’s raised $3 million since Friday night’s debate, and are expecting that bump to be reflected in the New Hampshire election, as well.
Klobuchar didn’t stray from doing what she does during her other debate performances, however: She presents herself as the only sensible adult in the room, utters pithy one-liners, and—perhaps her most fulfilling routine—makes Pete Buttigieg out to be an inexperienced outsider. Her disdain for Buttigieg has always been on full display, but it took on a new significance with Buttigieg dominating media narratives as the shiny new frontrunner. Klobuchar was more than happy to take him down a notch on Friday, calling out Buttigieg for telling Iowa voters that he found the impeachment proceedings “exhausting.”
“It is easy to go after Washington, because that’s the popular thing to do,” Klobuchar said. “It is much harder to lead, and much harder to take those difficult positions. Because I think going after every single thing that people do because it’s popular to say and makes you look like a cool newcomer... I don’t think that’s what people want right now. We have a newcomer in the White House, and look where it got us.”
The New Hampshire polling averages on FiveThirtyEight and RealClearPolitics still have Klobuchar in fifth place (at 9.4 percent and 11 percent respectively), with Sanders and Buttigieg duking it out for the top spot out of New Hampshire. And Klobuchar is still averaging at less than five percent in most upcoming primary states. While the Klobuchar campaign is reportedly pumping money into a fresh slot of ads in South Carolina with the new boost in campaign funds, Klobuchar would have to undergo an otherworldly turn-around to become anything close to a frontrunner.
But she doesn’t have to be a frontrunner to make an impact.
Klobmentum might not lead to a Klobuchar nomination, but small gains in the next few primaries or through Super Tuesday could eat into the numbers of her centrist competitors and raise the stakes of the all-important delegate count.
Nate Cohn of The New York Times tweeted that Klobuchar gaining momentum—along with Mike Bloomberg coming into play—could present a “dream scenario for Sanders” that “pushes us into the zone where the delegate math gets really sensitive to the 15 percent threshold for earning delegates.”
Of course, nothing in this race is predictable, and Klobmentum might be a momentary blip that ends up losing steam after New Hampshire. Another candidate could easily push her out of the spotlight, and a new darling of the week could rise. But watching the center find their champion as Elizabeth Warren continues to dip in the polls and Sanders steadily makes gains proves that we’re still in the early stages of grasping what voters really want. The fact that we’re even talking about Klobuchar after Iowa goes to show that primary season, if nothing else, is full of surprises.