Klobuchar hits Wisconsin, Iowa on first presidential campaign road trip

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar speaks to the crowd during a presidential campaign stop on Saturday at Lorados bar and grill in Mason City, Iowa. Cody Nelson | MPR News

Inside a packed bike and coffee shop in downtown Eau Claire, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar's bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination officially hit the road Saturday morning.

Klobuchar's campaign, which traveled to Mason City, Iowa, on Saturday afternoon, continued her focus on issues such as income inequality and climate change, which were part of her speech when she announced her bid last Sunday in Minneapolis. But in the first out-of-Minnesota campaign weekend, she added an emphasis on the urban-rural divide.

The senator, who is seeking the Democratic nomination to take on President Trump next year, repeatedly mentioned the idea of "heartland economics" that "leave no one behind," as she advocated for strong rural hospitals and schools, and broadband for all by 2022.

Wisconsin and Iowa are familiar territory for Klobuchar. In Mason City, she joked, "In Minnesota, we can see Iowa from our porch."

A crowd gathers to hear U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar speak during a presidential campaign stop on Saturday at Shift Cyclery & Coffee Bar in Eau Claire, Wis. Cody Nelson | MPR News

The crowd at Lorados bar and grill in Mason City exceeded capacity, so an overflow crowd gathered next door; Klobuchar gave a second speech to that group.

Klobuchar noted that she has campaigned for Iowa politicians, and she visited the state late last year to speak at the Iowa Farmers Union annual convention. However, there were still some at Saturday's rallies who were getting to know the senator.

Gloria Godchaux, 63, of Eau Claire — just over 80 miles from the Twin Cities — said she didn't know of Klobuchar until she announced her campaign last Sunday. Godchaux said she enjoyed seeing the senator speaking outside in the snow last weekend.

"She seems like a very strong leader who's very well respected here in the Midwest, so I'd just like to hear more about her," Godchaux said.

Some who already knew of Klobuchar wanted to know more about her, too — specifically what she plans to do about health care.

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar speaks to the crowd as she leaves a presidential campaign stop on Saturday at Shift Cyclery & Coffee Bar in Eau Claire, Wis. Cody Nelson | MPR News

Klobuchar laid out a vision for prescription drug reform at all three speeches she gave Saturday, but didn't delve into many specifics on health care policy. Klobuchar said she wants to move toward "universal health care," but didn't expand on that point.

Barbara Gosch, 78, suggested after the Eau Claire event that she wants to hear more details from Klobuchar.

"We want to hear more of her position and I did not hear it today. Anything about pre-existing illness or anything like that," she said, adding that she worked in health care for more than four decades and considers it the No. 1 issue in the election.

Bobbi Green, 43, said she appreciated Klobuchar talking about lowering prescription drug prices. However, she, too, wanted more focus on the entire health care system and how Klobuchar would reform it.

"I don't have any prescription drugs, but health care is literally bankrupting our family — and we're healthy people," Green said.

A crowd listens to U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar speak during a presidential campaign stop on Saturday in Mason City, Iowa. The initial campaign stop next door at Lorados bar and grill reached capacity, so Klobuchar followed up by giving a second speech to the overflow crowd. Cody Nelson | MPR News

Green, who volunteers with the Eau Claire County Democrats, said she was impressed by the turnout for Klobuchar's first campaign stop.

"She's the first candidate to come through this cycle now on the Dems' side, so I'm excited to see more and more of that and see how it goes," Green said. "There's a lot of energy for someone to defeat Trump."

Green said she appreciated Klobuchar's "Midwestern work ethic" and "grit."

However, Green also spoke to what will become one of Klobuchar's biggest obstacles to the Democratic nomination: there are a lot of contenders already, and the Democratic field is likely to grow.

"There are so many candidates we feel a little overwhelmed," Green said. "The goal is Trump out, no matter what — but it's a little bit of an embarrassment of riches."

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