By Sharon Bernstein
(Reuters) – Amy Klobuchar, a U.S. senator from Minnesota whose wit and straightforward Midwestern style won key endorsements and bolstered her long-shot campaign, is ending her bid for the Democratic presidential nomination and endorsing fellow moderate Joe Biden, her campaign said on Monday.
The moderate Klobuchar had built late momentum but lagged behind the leading candidates. Her withdrawal the day before Super Tuesday leaves five Democrats in the race for the party’s nod to run against Republican Donald Trump in November.
“The Klobuchar campaign confirms the Senator is flying to Dallas to join Vice President Biden at his rally tonight where she will suspend her campaign and endorse the Vice President,” and aide said in a text message sent to Reuters.
Biden and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg are jostling to become the leading moderate in the race and the main threat to democratic socialist U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, the front-runner heading into the Super Tuesday contest.
Klobuchar, 59, announced her candidacy outdoors in a Minnesota snowstorm last winter, in a display of the grit that propelled her campaign for months and made a contender out of a relative unknown.
The three-term senator and former prosecutor positioned herself as a pragmatist who could work with conservatives and Republicans while moving forward on Democratic priorities. She distinguished herself with strong debate performances and built a campaign that was taken seriously enough to win endorsements from the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle and other major news outlets.
“She ran a slow and steady stealth campaign,” said Brian Brokaw, a California political strategist. “She was a long shot since she announced her candidacy in the middle of a blizzard but she wasn’t deterred by all the skeptics who didn’t think she had a shot of making it to the first caucus.”
Klobuchar staked out a more moderate position than rival Senate colleagues Sanders and Elizabeth Warren on healthcare, spoke passionately in favor of what she called common-sense gun safety rules and vowed to roll back some of the Trump-era tax cuts for wealthy Americans and corporations.
On the campaign trail she told family stories about her father’s struggle with alcoholism and her grandfather saving money in a coffee can.
Klobuchar came through the early contests of Iowa and New Hampshire with enough votes to keep her campaign going, hoping to inherit the moderate mantle if Biden stumbled in his quest to win the party’s nomination as a centrist who could attract some of the white blue-collar Midwestern voters who backed Trump in 2016.
But Biden’s blowout victory in South Carolina on Saturday breathed new life into his campaign, dimming Klobuchar’s prospects.
Klobuchar earned support from Republicans dissatisfied with Trump and white working-class voters whom the Democrats will need to beat him, said Mike Madrid, a California Republican political consultant and co-founder of the anti-Trump group The Lincoln Project.
But she failed to win over many African-American and Latino voters, key Democratic constituencies that represented large chunks of the primary electorate in South Carolina, Texas and California.
Klobuchar ends her campaign in a far more visible and powerful position than she began it, said Raphael Sonenshein, director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at California State University, Los Angeles.
“She comes out much stronger than she went in,” Sonenshein said. “She becomes a more significant senator, and she becomes someone whose opinion will be asked.”
(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento, California. Additional reporting by Ginger Gibson in Washington; Editing by Chris Reese and Alistair Bell)