The conservative appeal of Amy Klobuchar

Instead of going radical, the Minnesota senator opts for what's reasonable

Amy Klobuchar.
(Image credit: Illustrated | Scott Olson/Getty Images, jessicahyde/iStock)

The winner of Tuesday night's Democratic primary debate was Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.). I can say this without hesitation because, with the exception of one somewhat embarrassing memory lapse, she spoke with the most confidence and clarity to the widest number of possible primary voters, not least in Iowa.

Klobuchar will not receive the credit she deserves in large because her performance was not meant to appeal to the vast majority of people commenting on these debates. The question is not whether I and my colleagues find Klobuchar likeable. (Personally she reminds me of a mean-spirited elementary-school librarian who is about to remind us for the fifth time to use our indoor voices.) It is whether she appeals to moderate Democrats who think that former Vice President Joe Biden is too old to run for (much less serve as) president, which is to say, the most important segment of the Democratic primary electorate. Earnest progressives who want Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) or nothing made up their minds years ago. Even if one imagines that half of Sen. Elizabeth Warren's (D-Mass.) current base of support would name Sanders as their second choice, we are left with roughly 80 percent of likely primary voters trying to decide which moderate candidate is the most electable. These are the people who reliably show up at the polls and support the party financially. They do not vote their conscience and go third party when they do not get their way, nor do they swing for Republicans.

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Matthew Walther

Matthew Walther is a national correspondent at The Week. His work has also appeared in First Things, The Spectator of London, The Catholic Herald, National Review, and other publications. He is currently writing a biography of the Rev. Montague Summers. He is also a Robert Novak Journalism Fellow.