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D.C. Memo: The Palmetto Stakes

This week: the upcoming South Carolina primary; Minnesota still has caucuses (kind of); and Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s background as a prosecutor.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar
Sen. Amy Klobuchar greeting supporters at a campaign event at Founders Hall in Charleston, South Carolina, on Wednesday.
REUTERS/Randall Hill

Welcome to this week’s edition of the D.C. Memo. This week: the upcoming South Carolina primary; Minnesota still has caucuses (kind of); and Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s background as a prosecutor.

Let’s get on with this.

South Carolina 

The South Carolina primary is on Saturday. And with it, 54 of the Democratic Party’s 3,979 delegates are in play.

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Real Clear Politics places Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s polling average at 3 percent, behind Joe Biden (34), Sen. Bernie Sanders (20), Tom Steyer (14), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (8), and former Mayor Pete Buttigieg (6). FiveThirtyEight says the senator “has a <1 in 100 (0%) chance of winning the most votes.”

Klobuchar has struggled to make any gains with black voters, who make up a majority of Democratic voters in the state. Nonetheless, after a sixth-place finish in Nevada, Klobuchar remained upbeat.

“As usual, we have exceeded expectations,” she said to a crowd of supporters in Minneapolis last weekend. “A lot of people didn’t even think I would still be standing at this point. They didn’t think I’d make it through that speech in the snow.”

Minnesota’s caucuses

Minnesota’s caucuses were held on Tuesday. But as MinnPost’s Peter Callaghan explains: “This year’s gatherings [had] nothing to do with which presidential candidates win delegates to each party’s national nominating conventions. In fact, there [were] no votes taken in any form at the caucuses — no straw poll, show of hands, applause meters — to indicate how many attendees support the presidential candidates.”

You can (and should) read more at MinnPost.

Klobuchar the prosecutor 

In the middle of the Democratic primary, Klobuchar’s record has drawn significantly more scrutiny than in prior months.

The New York Times has a piece on Klobuchar’s votes for President Trump’s judicial nominees. Reading it gave me a bit of déjà vu, but the point still stands: Klobuchar’s voting record was, until she ran for president, out of step with her Democratic colleagues running for president.

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At the same time, Klobuchar’s past as a prosecutor has continued to haunt the candidate’s run. The Minneapolis NAACP and other groups are still calling for her to exit the race because of her handling of the case of Myon Burrell, a then-teenager who was accused of murdering Tynesha Edwards, an 11-year-old girl. Burrell was given a life sentence during Klobuchar’s tenure as County Attorney, but a recent AP investigation questioned the evidence and the way the case was handled. 

Burrell did get a second trial, after Klobuchar left office, where he was convicted again. But earlier this week, when he spoke to ABC News’ Lindsey Davis, he placed the blame squarely on Klobuchar:

Lindsey Davis: “Do you hold Amy Klobuchar responsible?”

Myon Burrell: “Yes. Personally, I feel like she is the source of everything that happened, with her charging me.”

In a statement to CNN on Monday night, Klobuchar reiterated her position on the case:

“This was about an 11-year-old girl, Tyesha Edwards, who was killed while she was sitting at her kitchen table doing her homework. And as a prosecutor, our job is to convict the guilty and protect the innocent,” Klobuchar said in the statement.

“So if any evidence was not put forward or was not appropriately investigated or if new evidence has emerged that should have been discovered at the time, it must be reviewed.”

AIPAC

The annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference is going to be missing at least a few people this year: Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar, and former South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg.

Sanders has made his reason for not attending explicit, saying late last week: “I remain concerned about the platform AIPAC provides for leaders who express bigotry and oppose basic Palestinian rights.”

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But the other candidates, including Klobuchar, have not made clear why they are not attending. The conference will be held on Super Tuesday, which has added several states this year, and attending would likely cut into their schedule.

By the numbers 

  • 700%: During the last Democratic debate, former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg said he decreased “stop and frisk” by 95 percent. He actually increased it by 700 percent. 
  • $900,000: The amount Kitchen Table Conversations, a Super PAC supporting Amy Klobuchar, just spent on television ads in South Carolina. That puts their total spending in South Carolina at $1,855,100.
  • 2: The number of days until the South Carolina primary.

The president next door

After the South Carolina primary comes what could be the final test for Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s campaign. Super Tuesday brings primary contests in 14 states, American Samoa and one for Americans abroad, making up around 40 percent of delegates. If polls hold, it will be nearly impossible for Klobuchar to make up the delegate difference needed for a majority or a plurality. Her best hope would then be a brokered convention.

One bright spot for her campaign: Things can change. The latest Minnesota poll of 500 likely voters, from MPR and the Star Tribune, is emphatically different from the last polls we’ve seen in the state. Sen. Elizabeth Warren has gone from leading the pack to third place and Minnesota’s home state senator has gone from second place to a slight edge over Sen. Bernie Sanders. Here are the results:

  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar: 29%
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders: 23%
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren: 11%
  • Joe Biden: 8%
  • Bloomberg: 3%
  • Buttigieg: 3%
  • Gabbard: 1%
  • Steyer: 1%
  • Undecided: 21%

Hanna Trudo at the Daily Beast points out that Sanders isn’t just looking to do well in Minnesota. He’s looking to win, and by doing so, to overcome Klobuchar’s home state advantage. The Vermont senator will hold a rally in St. Paul on Monday.

The Sanders campaign also just released a large list of 56 endorsements by Minnesotans, including union members, community leaders, and elected officials. Here’s the list of electeds (the rest are linked above):

  • Hodan Hassan, State Representative (District 62A) & Assistant Majority Leader, Minneapolis, MN
  • Carlos Mariani, State Representative (District 65B), St. Paul, MN
  • Dai Thao, Councilmember (Ward 1), St. Paul, MN
  • Nadia Mohamed, Councilwoman (At Large B), St. Louis Park, MN
  • Rochelle (Shelly) Dahlquist, Council Member (Ward 1), Moorhead, MN
  • Kim Ellison, Chair, Minneapolis Board of Education, Minneapolis, MN
  • Marny Xiong, Chair, St. Paul Public School Board, St. Paul, MN
  • Angie Hanson, Board Member and Clerk, Albert Lea Area Schools, Albert Lea, MN
  • AK Hassan, Commissioner, Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board, Minneapolis, MN
  • Chelsea Skog, Supervisor (District 3) & Secretary, Dakota County Soil and Water Conservation Board District, Eagan, MN

In other news

Quote of the week

“What Amy Klobuchar is really saying when she talks about having ‘receipts?’” asks this MPR story. 

What I’m reading

Alex Samuels for the Texas Tribune: Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert votes against anti-lynching bill

This week, only four members of Congress voted against the Emmett Till Antilynching Act, which would make lynching a federal crime. The bill passed the House on Wednesday with 410 voting in favor and these members voting against: Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Thomas Massie (R-KY), Ted Yoho (R-FL), and Justin Amash (I-MI).

That’s all for this week. Thanks for sticking around. Until next week, feel free to send tips, suggestions, and sound advice to: gschneider@minnpost.com. Follow at @gabemschneider. And don’t forget to become a MinnPost member.