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A short list of positions for which Sen. Amy Klobuchar has been shortlisted

The Senator Next Door is also the political press’ favorite Senator Next In Line.

Minnesota’s senior senator frequently finds herself a top pick on pundits’ fantasy politics teams.
MinnPost photo by Brent Moore

The news of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death was hardly minutes old before breathless speculation started to surface about whom President Barack Obama might nominate to replace him.

Among the names floated by the pundits was one well-known to Minnesotans: Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

A sampling of recent coverage:

And those are just the headlines. CNN, USA Today, the Washington Post, and many others have included Klobuchar in their shortlists of potential Supreme Court nominees. Here’s Vox, summing up the conventional wisdom behind all the mentioning:

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If you want to win over senators, why not pick one of their peers? And there’s no one on the Democratic side in the Senate better suited to the court than Minnesota’s senior senator. … She serves on the Judiciary Committee, meaning she’s worked for years with the people who’d be weighing her nomination.

This is hardly the first time that Klobuchar has been floated as a pick for the high court. When Obama was re-elected, Klobuchar was listed as a top contender for any vacancy that could occur in the president’s second term by SCOTUSblog. As far back as 2010, Klobuchar was mentioned as a candidate by that site.

But this is nothing new for Minnesota’s senior senator, who frequently finds herself a top pick on pundits’ fantasy politics teams. Consider the following:

President of the United States

Yep: Klobuchar’s name has been floated as a potential candidate — and occupant — of the highest office in the land. Speculation as to how Klobuchar could fit into the presidential picture was at its peak shortly after Obama was re-elected. Then, it was not yet totally clear if Hillary Clinton would run, so pundits looked to the Democratic bench:

  • “Klobuchar might be the most talented — and effective — politician most people have never heard of. … She wants to be part of the great-mentioned when it comes to 2016.” — The Washington Post, which placed her as the eighth top Democratic 2016 presidential prospect in July 2013
  • “Klobuchar is one of America’s most popular senators, and she’s cultivated a reputation as an indefatigable, impeccably bipartisan problem solver. … Who better to make the case for the liberal dream of universal child care than a temperamentally moderate Minnesotan? — Slate, who said Klobuchar was one of five Democrats who should challenge Clinton, March 2015

Between 2013 and 2015, Klobuchar visited Iowa a few times, and released a memoir. Taken together, they create a major red flag for political journalists:

  • “Klobuchar is heading back to Iowa. … The senator is rumored to be interested in a presidential run should Hillary Clinton surprise people and pass on a run this year.” — The Hill, September 2014
  • “No politician goes to Iowa by accident. … She is decidedly ambitious, and it’s not all that hard to imagine her, at some point down the line — 2020 or 2024 — inserting herself into the presidential/vice presidential conversation.” — The Washington Post, April 2015

Vice president of the United States

Klobuchar effectively dampened any speculation on this presidential cycle by enthusiastically backing Clinton and heading out on the stump for the former secretary of state. But that added fuel to a different kind of speculation: that she could potentially serve as a running-mate on the 2016 Democratic presidential ticket.

That chatter has, like most of this talk, become self-sustaining: appearing on CBS last August, Klobuchar was introduced as a “possible vice presidential candidate.” As Clinton’s tactics were increasingly picked apart, a Klobuchar selection was increasingly assessed as a potentially strategic play:

  • “Speculation has already begun as to whom Hillary Clinton might pick as a running mate. … The notion of two women on the ticket is getting a lot of discussion among Democrats, and both [New York Sen. Kristen] Gillibrand and Klobuchar are seen as strong contenders in that scenario.” — The Hill, May 2014
  • “Clinton would most likely go for Klobuchar if she wanted to be perceived as moderate and [Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth] Warren if she felt the need to shore up her liberal support.” — The Daily Dot, April 2015

Attorney general of the United States

This one might make the most sense: for eight years, Klobuchar was Hennepin County’s top lawyer, which gives her the skills and profile that would serve a U.S. attorney general well. As a sitting senator, she is also perceived to have an advantage here: AG nominees must be confirmed by the Senate, and it’s harder to credibly attack a colleague you have worked with.

At several different points, Klobuchar has been floated as a potential AG pick. Around Obama’s re-election, there was speculation as to whether he’d re-stock his cabinet, former Attorney General Eric Holder in particular:

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  • “Obama could turn to one of two former prosecutors now in the Senate, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota or Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island. Klobuchar was a popular county attorney.” – The Atlantic, November 2011

When Holder announced he was stepping down in 2015, Klobuchar was mentioned yet again.

  • “Taking the job at this time doesn’t look like a smart career move for any of the Senate trio meriting recent mention: Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. … Pressing one of them into service anyway would almost guarantee a successor to Eric H. Holder Jr. is confirmed without much fuss during the lame-duck session.” – Roll Call, October 2014
  • “Potential candidates include California Attorney General Kamala Harris, a longtime Obama ally, and at least three Democratic U.S. senators, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.” – Bloomberg News, September 2014

It all makes sense when you think about it: For the political media, which thrives on speculation, Klobuchar makes for a safe bet that sounds smart. She’s moderate, has a solid background in politics and law enforcement, is pretty good on the Sunday shows, and is very popular in the Capitol and in Minnesota.

Klobuchar has dutifully downplayed her interest in every position here — other than that of U.S. senator from the state of Minnesota.

When asked her thoughts on why she is mentioned so often, Klobuchar’s office declined to comment.