ECM Capitol Reporter
Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar won easy reelection to a second, six-year term Election Day, crushing Republican opponent Rep. Kurt Bills by a wide margin.
“We won the right way,” Klobuchar told Democrats gathered in St. Paul Tuesday evening.
“He (Bills) campaigned hard to the end. And we all wish him well,” she said.
Klobuchar, 52, is the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate in Minnesota state history.
A former Hennepin County Attorney, she is known for tempered rhetoric, a “workhorse” approach to her duties, reaching across the party aisle.
Klobuchar often declares political courage is less a willingness to stand alone than with others with whom you don’t always agree.
Klobuchar’s name has been cited by national pundits as a possible 2016 presidential candidate and the number of her speaking engagements at the recent Democratic National Convention drew further media speculation.
The senator has downplayed talk of the Oval Office.
“I love representing Minnesota. And that’s all I’m focused on right now,” Klobuchar said at DFL State Party convention this summer.
The scope of Klobuchar’s victory might be historic.
Bills could have the dubious distinction of joining only four other Republican U.S. Senate candidates — a list including former 6th District Congressman Mark Kennedy whom Klobuchar trounced six years ago — failing to take 40 percent of the vote in the 23 special and general U.S. Senate elections held since the formation of the modern State DFL Party almost 70 years ago, according to Eric Ostermeier of “Smart Politics.”
Polls have indicated for months that Klobuchar had double-digit leads on Bills, a high school economics teacher from Rosemount, and Klobuchar has enjoyed a huge advantage in campaign funding.
A KSTP/Survey USA poll in late October showed Bills trailing Klobuchar by 31 points.
“I’ve worked as hard as I could,” Bills said recently of his effort to defeat Klobuchar.
“I’ve worked my tail off,” he said.
Klobuchar’s victory leaves intact the Democratic monopoly on statewide elective offices and has Republicans talking about party endorsement reform.
Bills won endorsement at a state convention this summer controlled by the Ron Paul wing of the Minnesota Republican Party.
“The process on how we nominate candidates needs to be reformed,” said former Republican House Minority Leader Marty Seifert on Twin Cities Public Television’s “Almanac” recently.
Carleton College Political Science Professor Steven Schier believes some of Bills’ political liabilities were self-inflicted.
For instance, Bills was unwilling to meet with the Star Tribune Editorial Board and shunned certain reporters.
“You can’t cocoon when you’re way behind,” Schier said.
Schier called the Republican Party endorsement process this year a “shambles.”
The Ron Paul faction that controlled it are out of the political mainstream, he said.
Schier points to Klobuchar’s affable, smiling personality, her avoidance of partisan rhetoric, as keys to her popularity in Minnesota.
But Schier questions Klobuchar’s presidential credentials.
“I don’t see her as having a national appeal,” he said.
Addressing cheering Democrats, Klobuchar spoke of rejecting a politics of fear, and instead pursuing a politics of hope.
“I’m an optimist. We need to renew Congress,” Klobuchar said, speaking of reforming filibuster provisions — a means of halting legislation — and forcing the filibuster to stand before the American public instead of hiding in the shadows.
“I refuse to be discouraged,” Klobuchar said.
DFL State Party Chairman Ken Martin said he expects Klobuchar to continue her approach to serving in the Senate over the next six years that has made her the popular politician she is.
While not wanting disparage Bills, Martin deemed Bills as representing a politics out of step with mainstream Minnesota.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken, who squeaked to victory in 2008 by 312 votes, is up for reelection in 2014.
Former Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty recently indicated that he is not interested in running for office in Minnesota in 2014.
Tim Budig is at [email protected]