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McCain recited names of dictators at Trump inaugural, Klobuchar says in Iowa

Des Moines Register logo Des Moines Register 5/26/2019 Shelby Fleig
Amy Klobuchar et al. standing in front of a store © Provided by Gannett Co., Inc.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar rang in her 59th birthday with the help of more than 200 Iowa Democrats, who belted out “Happy Birthday" as the senator blew out candles on a cake Saturday night.

At the party, complete with table confetti and hand-painted signs, the Minnesota senator told voters she’s on a slow and steady upward trajectory. In addition to talking about her policy proposals to pay for urgent action on climate change and health care, she displayed a looser approach Saturday night — with jokes and jabs at President Donald Trump’s expense — that had Iowa Democrats belly-laughing through her half-hour speech at Jasper Winery.

Klobuchar walked the Des Moines crowd through the days after Trump’s 2016 election, from her perspective, starting with the inauguration. Her seat between fellow candidate Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, and the late Arizona Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, set the tone, she said.

“John McCain kept reciting to me names of dictators during (Trump’s inauguration) speech,” she said. “Because he knew more than any of us what we were facing as a nation. He understood it. He knew he because he knew this man more than any of us did.”

Amy Klobuchar et al. standing in front of a store: Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., spent her birthday touring across Iowa as part of her presidential campaign before stopping at Jasper Winery in Des Moines, where she spoke to hundreds of supporters on Saturday, May 25, 2019. © Bryon Houlgrave, Bryon Houlgrave Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., spent her birthday touring across Iowa as part of her presidential campaign before stopping at Jasper Winery in Des Moines, where she spoke to hundreds of supporters on Saturday, May 25, 2019.

Citing the Women’s March, airport protests and — her “favorite march" — the March for Science, Klobuchar urged voters in the room not to give up.

“No way, no how,” she said.

More: Committing to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure, Amy Klobuchar flaunts tech expertise in Iowa rural broadband talks

Polk County Democrats say Klobuchar is 'in the mix'

Judy Downs, executive director of the Polk County Democrats, said Klobuchar had a similar message in a May 2017 speech to the group, and that her call to “show them what you’re made of” resonated and resulted in real organizing within the group.

The Saturday crowd showed Downs that Klobuchar has momentum, she said

“This is a holiday weekend. She’s been in town a whole lot. So this kind of crowd is really impressive and it tells me something,” Downs told the Register. “Anyone who hasn’t had a peak yet, who hasn’t had their meme-able moment yet, still has a chance to rise and gain some traction with caucus-goers. I think Sen. Klobuchar is definitely a candidate for that, for a late swing or surge.”

Abigail Bessler, John Bessler posing for a photo: Judy Downs, executive director of Polk County Democrats, brings out a birthday cake for Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who spent her birthday touring across Iowa before stopping at Jasper Winery in Des Moines, where she spoke to hundreds of supporters on Saturday, May 25, 2019. © Bryon Houlgrave, Bryon Houlgrave Judy Downs, executive director of Polk County Democrats, brings out a birthday cake for Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who spent her birthday touring across Iowa before stopping at Jasper Winery in Des Moines, where she spoke to hundreds of supporters on Saturday, May 25, 2019.

Polk County caucus-goers recognized the increased jabs at Trump too, Downs said.

“She was kind of punchy,” Downs said. “I talked to a few women who were listening from outside, and they said she was really throwing shots — and they liked it.”

Dennis Groenenboom, who retired from his post as the executive director of Iowa Legal Aid last year, has caucused since 1980. He said his goal each cycle is see every candidate speak.

Already familiar with Klobuchar through Minnesota friends, he said he was “more impressed than I thought I would be. I thought she did a good job of laying out a personal story and then talking about some of the issues she would confront.”

Groenenboom, 65, of Des Moines, said he’s already “ruling out” candidates that won’t get his vote on caucus night, including some current front-runners. He but said Klobuchar is still on his radar.

“What she said tonight keeps her in the mix for me,” he said.

Klobuchar pitches new farm policy in Hardin County

Earlier in the day, after stops in Decorah and Charles City, Klobuchar spoke to more than 60 voters at an Iowa Falls coffee shop.

That’s where she outlined her latest policy idea for on economic tools for farmers.

The policy proposal, which includes raising the debt limit on farm bankruptcies and increasing farmers' access to government loans, is the third major policy idea of her campaign. She led with a $1 trillion infrastructure plan and recently released a $100 billion plan to combat substance abuse and promote mental health.  

More: Sen. Amy Klobuchar has a plan to fund mental illness, substance abuse treatment

Many Iowa farmers are reeling as a result of the combinations of major flooding, an ongoing trade dispute with China, and low commodity prices. Farm bankruptcies remain relatively low in Iowa, but there are signs of growing cracks in the state’s agriculture economy, including more agriculture debt than any other state in the nation last year.

Klobuchar’s plan would raise the liability cap for bankruptcy filing from $4.2 million to $10 million. She'd also increase the Agriculture Department's direct operating loan limit.

Her understanding of rural bread-and-butter issues sets her apart from her competitors, she claims. A theme of her campaign is her effort to “bridge the rural-urban divide.” She said it’s that approach that allowed her to win over rural and Republican counties in Minnesota elections.

More: Sen. Amy Klobuchar sees common ground in fights for ethanol production, climate change

“I have done it by getting out to the rural areas,” she told the Iowa Falls crowd. “By understanding that not everyone is going to agree with everything I say, but they know I have their back, that they can trust me and they know that I will tell them the truth. ... Because they don’t trust that guy in the White House.”

Amy Klobuchar et al. posing for the camera: Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. spent her birthday touring across Iowa as part of her presidential campaign before stopping at Jasper Winery in Des Moines, where she spoke to hundreds of supporters on Saturday, May 25, 2019. © Bryon Houlgrave, Bryon Houlgrave Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. spent her birthday touring across Iowa as part of her presidential campaign before stopping at Jasper Winery in Des Moines, where she spoke to hundreds of supporters on Saturday, May 25, 2019.

'Sometimes you just have to laugh'

Dee Dolan, a senior Iowa Falls resident who is in the process of moving to Minnesota, said she plans to volunteer for the Klobuchar campaign. Klobuchar's questioning at Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing is what secured Dolan's interest, she said.

"She's very direct. She stays on point. She knows where she's going," she said after the Iowa Falls meet and greet.  

In Iowa Falls, Klobuchar explained how using her sense of humor gives her a "unique ability" to combat Trump's narrative.

"You might not think what he's saying is funny, but he uses (humor) a lot," the senator said. "And that doesn't mean going down a rabbit hole with Donald Trump, because he wakes up every day and tries to dominate the agenda ... but I think it's important to use a little humor with him, right?"

Dolan agreed.

"I tend to be so serious, but sometimes you just have to laugh."

Shelby Fleig covers news and features for the Register. She can be reached at shelbyfleig@dmreg.com and 515-214-8933.

This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: McCain recited names of dictators at Trump inaugural, Klobuchar says in Iowa

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