(Bloomberg) -- Amy Klobuchar arrived in New Hampshire after a dismal fifth-place showing in Iowa with nothing but questions surrounding her candidacy. Now she has to show that her surprise third-place finish in the Granite State is more than just a fluke.
Powered by a strong debate performance last week, the Minnesota senator defied expectations by garnering almost 20% of the vote on Tuesday, coming in behind Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg, but ahead of onetime heavyweights Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden.
With the Democratic nomination contest moving to Nevada and then South Carolina in the next two weeks, Klobuchar is trying to build on her newfound momentum.
“Logistically she’s got a lot to accomplish over the next couple of weeks,” said Kathleen Sullivan, former chairwoman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party. “Some states are already in early voting and others are about to start so she really has to capitalize quickly in fundraising so she can build a campaign structure.”
A few hours after the polls closed in New Hampshire, the Klobuchar campaign announced it had raised more than $2.5 million, on top of another $4 million that came in over the weekend following the debate last Friday.
That’s a change for Klobuchar, who raised $25 million for her campaign through the end of 2019, Federal Election Commission records show, putting her sixth among candidates relying on donations to fund their campaigns. Political novice Andrew Yang, who dropped out of the race on Tuesday, outraised her with $30 million.
The Klobuchar campaign is using the influx of cash for a seven-figure advertising buy in Nevada that hits the airwaves Wednesday, and a campaign aide said more than 50 staffers will be in the state by the end of the week.
But Klobuchar’s resources are still dwarfed by those of her top-tier rivals, who have far more money, and much larger staffs and infrastructure in the states that come next.
She is urgently trying to remedy those shortcomings, making a fundraiser in New York City on Wednesday her first stop before she starts campaigning in Nevada on Friday.
Klobuchar also faces steep challenges in building support among the Democratic Party’s diverse electorate.
While New Hampshire is overwhelmingly white, Nevada has a large Latino population, and Klobuchar is polling in seventh place for the state’s Feb. 22 caucuses. In South Carolina, where the majority of Democratic voters are black, she is polling eighth for the Feb. 29 primary.
Klobuchar’s underdog status has shielded her from the scrutiny many of her competitors have faced and a closer look at her record could ultimately impede her rise. She has been asked to answer questions about her handling of the conviction of a black teenager when she was a county prosecutor. She has also been haunted by news reports that she allegedly treated her staff poorly.
“Senator Klobuchar is getting a well-deserved look from voters for the first time, but hasn’t been able to build out infrastructure for the long haul, and is playing catch-up on a very short timeline,” Roger Lau, Warren’s campaign manager said in a memo released Tuesday. “Like others in the race, she hasn’t yet faced the tough questions and scrutiny that accompany rising momentum.”
For most of the race Klobuchar has struggled to gain traction, as she vied with Biden and Buttigieg to occupy the moderate lane in the Democratic contest. At the debate last week, she was the only candidate to raise their hand when the moderator asked if there was anyone on the stage who was concerned about the potential of a socialist at the top of the Democratic ticket in November, a clear reference to Sanders.
Yet she still suffers from a lack of name recognition compared with many of her rivals, even though she has a substantial record of achievement in the Senate and has received endorsements from newspapers such as the New York Times and the Des Moines Register.
She addressed the problem of her low profile with a quip as the results of New Hampshire’s primary started rolling in on Tuesday night.
“Hello America! I’m Amy Klobuchar and I will beat Donald Trump,” Klobuchar exclaimed to a cheering crowd in Concord, New Hampshire. “Tonight in New Hampshire, as everyone had counted us out, even a week ago -- thank you pundits -- I came back and we delivered.”
(Disclaimer: Michael Bloomberg is also seeking the Democratic presidential nomination. He is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.)
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