U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar brought her campaign of hope and empathy to Portland on Saturday evening, invoking long-held Democratic ideals of organized labor, public education and respect for working-class people.

The senator from Minnesota, who is trying to establish herself as a moderate presidential candidate in a still-crowded Democratic field, spoke to an audience of several hundred potential voters at the Seasons Event and Conference Center on Riverside Street and urged them to participate in Tuesday’s presidential primary.

“It is a really, really important moment for you all to vote,” she said. “I can’t think of a more important moment in our country’s history.”

Klobuchar emphasized her rural roots and practical experience at the local, state and federal levels of governments, and presented herself as a centrist capable of uniting the party and bringing others into it. That message, she said, should play well in Maine. “I think Maine, that practical state that you are, understands that it’s important to have bold ideas that can actually get done,” she said.

That message played well with Elizabeth Torraco of Portland, who is taking the long view on the election. “I’m voting my head, not my heart. I’m a Bernie (Sanders) person, but I won’t be voting for him. I’ll be voting for Amy. She has the better chance” of winning in November, Torraco said.

Klobuchar is among 12 Democrats who will appear on the Maine ballot on Tuesday, with just eight still in the race. She’s one of the moderates trying to hang on through Super Tuesday so she can build momentum and challenge whoever emerges from the party’s liberal wing at the Democratic National Convention this summer. She told the Portland audience she would win the general election in November by building a coalition of “fired-up” Democrats, moderate Republicans and independents. “I have done it, and I think it’s so important to winning right now, but also to governing,” she said.


Anne Gregory of Yarmouth is among those who will vote for Klobuchar on Tuesday. She held a sign at Saturday’s rally that said, “Amy! Smart. Tough. Centrist.” She is looking forward to Klobuchar challenging President Trump directly. “I imagine her on the debate stage with orange head, and I think she can take him on,” Gregory said.

David and Janice Driver were still weighing their voting options as they waited in line to get into the conference center ballroom. The couple decided to drive from West Bath to hear Klobuchar speak out of respect for her willingness to make the trek to Maine. “If she is willing to come and see us, she moves up on the totem pole, so to speak,” David Driver said.

Klobuchar began her day on Saturday with a rallies in Tennessee and Virginia in the morning before arriving in Maine late in the afternoon. As Klobuchar spoke in Maine, voters were still casting ballots in South Carolina, where former Vice President Joe Biden was declared the winner shortly after polls closed 7 p.m. Klobuchar planned to head back south after the Portland rally, with a final destination of North Carolina. It might have been practical to skip the Portland rally, but Klobuchar told her campaign team, “I want to go to Maine!”

Maine, which is among 14 states that will hold primaries on Tuesday, has 24 delegates at play. That’s the second fewest delegates up for grabs among Super Tuesday states. Vermont has the fewest, with 16. Nationally, nearly 1,400 delegates are in the mix on Tuesday. Going into Saturday’s voting in South Carolina, with 54 delegates at stake, Klobuchar was in fifth place among the candidates, with seven delegates committed after results in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.

Analysts saw Klobuchar’s decision to leave South Carolina midweek as a sign that she was counting on respectable finishes, or better, in Super Tuesday voting in places like Tennessee, Virginia and Maine – and her home state of Minnesota. Her decision to rally in Maine may be based on her relatively strong third-place showing in neighboring New Hampshire in February.

Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight, which focuses on opinion poll analysis, says its models suggest that Sanders will win 29 percent of the Maine vote, followed by 16 percent for Biden and Mike Bloomberg, 15 percent for Elizabeth Warren, 14 percent for Pete Buttigieg, 5 percent for Klobuchar and 2 percent each for Tom Steyer and Tulsi Gabbard.

Medora McCrum and Gail Martin, both former teachers, were among the first in line for Saturday’s rally. Health care and education are their top two issues. “I listened to her during the Kavanaugh hearing,” McCrum said, recalling Klobuchar’s tough questioning of then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. “She’s gotten my attention since then.”

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