Good morning and welcome to Monday and the start of a new work week. Here’s the Digest.
1. Klobuchar joins crowded race for president. U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar joined the chase for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination Sunday with a frigid campaign kickoff along the Mississippi River with the Minneapolis skyline as a soaring backdrop. “Today, on an island in the middle of the mighty Mississippi, in our nation’s heartland, at a time when we must heal the heart of our democracy and renew our commitment to the common good, I stand before you as the granddaughter of an iron ore miner, the daughter of a teacher and a newspaperman, the first woman elected to the United States Senate from the State of Minnesota, to announce my candidacy for President of the United States,” Klobuchar told the cheering crowd. The third-term Minnesota senator and former county attorney now is part of an already bulging field looking to take on Republican President Donald Trump. And she’ll be one of a historic number of women in the White House hunt, becoming the fifth so far to press ahead with a bid. The announcement setting helps showcase the Midwestern roots of a candidate certain to present herself as a mild alternative to the sharp-edged Trump. She’s among a crop of senators in the race or giving it serious consideration. “I don’t have a political machine. I don’t come from money. But what I do have is this: I have grit,” Klobuchar planned to tell supporters. “I have family. I have friends. I have neighbors. I have all of you who are willing to come out in the middle of the winter, all of you who took the time to watch us today, all of you who are willing to stand up and say people matter.” (MPR News)
2. Republicans say it won’t be an easy run for the Minnesota senator. The Republican National Committee put out a news release Sunday saying, “Despite spending months vowing to serve her third term in full if re-elected, Amy Klobuchar has broken that promise just four months later in favor of her own personal ambition. With today’s announcement, Klobuchar has shown her true colors to the people of Minnesota as another out-of-touch Democrat looking to push the failed policies of her party onto the American people.” Klobuchar, 58, has never lost an election. Leaders of the Minnesota Republican Party, which has had no success in blunting her home-state momentum, frequently criticize her as an overly cautious politician who plays it safe by focusing on broadly popular issues such as consumer protection even as she reliably votes with Democrats on more controversial measures. “Minnesota Nice is not going to work on a national stage,” said Jennifer Carnahan, chairwoman of the Minnesota Republican Party. “We’ve seen that in the past. People need to get out there and demonstrate true leadership potential.” (Star Tribune)
3. Klobuchar’s strategy? Focus on the Midwest. Facing a relatively safe re-election race, Ms. Klobuchar spent most of the midterms promoting other Democrats running for office in her home state. She has made numerous visits to Iowa during her 12 years in office, most recently to push a message of “heartland economics” to rural residents and farmers, arguing that Democrats cannot afford to forget about the middle of the country. “Minnesota matters, Wisconsin matters, Nebraska matters, Ohio matters — and, yes, Iowa matters,” she told the Iowa Farmers Union in December. Ms. Klobuchar believes the contiguous location of her home state to Iowa could give her an advantage in the state’s caucuses, a crucial first test of the primary field. She likes to joke that she “can see Iowa from my porch.” (New York Times)
4. Another piece quotes unnamed staffers saying Klobuchar was a bad boss. Amy Klobuchar has laid the grounds for a presidential run on an image of “Minnesota nice.” But behind the doors of her Washington, DC, office, the Minnesota Democrat ran a workplace controlled by fear, anger, and shame, according to interviews with eight former staffers, one that many employees found intolerably cruel. She demeaned and berated her staff almost daily, subjecting them to bouts of explosive rage and regular humiliation within the office, according to interviews and dozens of emails reviewed by BuzzFeed News. That anger regularly left employees in tears, four former staffers said. She yelled, threw papers, and sometimes even hurled objects; one aide was accidentally hit with a flying binder, according to someone who saw it happen, though the staffer said the senator did not intend to hit anyone with the binder when she threw it. “I cried. I cried, like, all the time,” said one former staffer. In the emails seen by BuzzFeed, often sent between 1 and 4 in the morning, Klobuchar regularly berated employees, often in all capital letters, over minor mistakes, misunderstandings, and misplaced commas. Klobuchar, in the emails, which were mostly sent over the past few years, referred to her staff’s work as “the worst in … years,” and “the worst in my life.” When staffers made mistakes, the emails show, she reamed them out — and sometimes, emails show, threatened to fire them — over threads that included many of their colleagues. Klobuchar’s response yesterday: “Yes, I can be tough. And, yes, I can push people. I know that. But in the end, there are so many great stories of our staff that have been with me for years that have gone on to do incredible things. And I have, I’d say, high expectations for myself. I have high expectations for the people that work for me. But I have high expectations for this country. And that’s what we need. We need someone who is focused on getting things done for the country.”(BuzzFeed)
5. Even President Trump got into it. It didn’t take President Trump long to notice — and mock — Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s quintessentially Minnesotan announcement she wants to challenge him for the White House in 2020.In a post on Twitter, Trump noted that Klobuchar focused part of her speech on tackling climate change while snow poured down at the outdoor event on Boom Island in Minneapolis. “Well, it happened again. Amy Klobuchar announced that she is running for President, talking proudly of fighting global warming while standing in a virtual blizzard of snow, ice and freezing temperatures,” Trump wrote. “Bad timing. By the end of her speech she looked like a Snowman(woman)!” Klobuchar’s response: “Science is on my side, @realDonaldTrump. Looking forward to debating you about climate change (and many other issues). And I wonder how your hair would fare in a blizzard? In her announcement speech, Klobuchar promise on her first day in office to rejoin the Paris climate agreement that Trump rejected in June 2017. “The people are on our side when it comes to climate change. Why? Because like you and I, they believe in science,” Klobuchar said. While she touched on a variety of issues where she differs from president, but Klobuchar didn’t name Trump in her nearly half-hour speech. (Pioneer Press)
6. Omar takes heat for another tweet. Freshman Minnesota Democrat Ilhan Omar ignited a new controversy on Sunday night when she suggested GOP support for Israel is driven by campaign donations from a prominent pro-Israel group. Omar singled out AIPAC, one of the most influential lobbying groups in Washington, as the source of those donations. Omar’s comments touched upon a long-running, and particularly ugly, thread of the anti-Semitic movement — that Jewish money fuels backing for Israel in the United States and elsewhere. A freshman Democrat, Max Rose of New York, said, “Congresswoman Omar’s statements are deeply hurtful to Jews, including myself.” And the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee is a non-profit that doesn’t donate directly to candidates. AIPAC, however, does relentlessly push a pro-Israeli message on Capitol Hill and inside the executive branch, and its members donate to pro-Israel lawmakers and candidates while seeking to defeat those it considers a threat to U.S.-Israeli relations. (Politico)