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Klobuchar in Detroit: Biden can win 'big' like Whitmer

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Detroit — U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota, touted former Vice President Joe Biden's ability to lead a "big coalition" against President Donald Trump during a Friday campaign stop in Michigan.

Klobuchar had been running against Biden for the Democratic presidential nomination until dropping out of the race Monday and endorsing him. Now, she's trying to gather support for his campaign ahead of Michigan's Tuesday primary election.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar campaigns for Joe Biden  at a Women for Biden event at the Southfield Pavillion in Southfield, Mich. on Mar. 6, 2020.

Biden and Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders are both hoping to win the state and its 125 convention delegates. U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii is also on the ballot, but polled below 1% in a recent Detroit News-WDIV (Local 4) survey.

Klobuchar toured the MGM Grand Detroit Friday before doing a series of interviews with reporters. She argued that Biden would gather support from independents, moderates and the Democratic Party's base to "win big," the type of victory that Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer had in 2018, she said. Whitmer won Michigan's governor's race by 9 percentage points.

"To do that, you need this big coalition. Biden can lead that coalition," Klobuchar said. "Some of it is an economic check. But a lot of it is a decency check. They are tired of a president that sends mean tweets every morning."

Asked what Biden would be able to do to defeat Trump in Michigan that Hillary Clinton wasn't able to do in 2016, Klobuchar said she wouldn't criticize Clinton.

Amy Klobuchar speaks at a campaign rally in Salt Lake City on Monday March 2, 2020. She dropped out of the presidential race shortly after the event.

"She was up against a lot, the entire Russian government, just a very difficult election year and she would have made a great president," Klobuchar said during an interview.

She added, “What’s different is that we came roaring back in 2018 with the governor’s election here."

In 2016, Clinton lost Michigan to Trump by 10,704 votes or less than two-tenths of a percentage point. It was the first time since 1988 that a Republican presidential nominee carried Michigan. Clinton also lost Michigan's Democratic primary to Sanders by 1.4 percentage points.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer appears on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Thursday, March 5, 2020. Whitmer endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden for president during the appearance.

Pundits and political strategists have floated Klobuchar, Whitmer and Michigan U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow as potential running mates for Biden if he wins the nomination. Klobuchar wouldn't weigh in on whether Biden needs a running mate from the Midwest, home to states that helped swing the 2016 election to Trump.

“He’ll pick whoever he thinks is best,” she said, adding, however, that what's really important is that Biden "win in the Midwest."

Klobuchar's stop in Detroit came as Sanders supporters were gathering for a rally at the TCF Center. Sanders is focusing on Michigan ahead of Tuesday's election, holding a rally in Detroit on Friday, one Saturday in Dearborn and Sunday rallies in Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor.

Biden is set to campaign Saturday in Missouri with stops in St. Louis and Kansas City ahead of Tuesday’s primary. On Sunday, he will stump in Jackson, Mississippi, before coming to Michigan Monday for events in Grand Rapids and Detroit. No details have been released yet about the Michigan events.

Whitmer, who endorsed Biden for president on Thursday, said Friday she and Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist will be working to help Biden's campaign before the primary.

During a visit to a voting center in Detroit, Whitmer said there will be "more activity" from the Biden campaign in the coming days here. She also predicted that former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, a former candidate for president, will be visiting the state on Biden's behalf.

"They understand how important Michigan is," Whitmer said of Biden's campaign.

cmauger@detroitnews.com