Chasing Amy

How do you get to be the state’s most popular politician? It requires legwork, empathy, and a sense of humor, as Senator Amy Klobuchar knows.
  1. On a cold Monday morning last January, Amy Klobuchar was walking down the sidewalk toward Central High School in St. Paul. I first spotted her long red coat, which made her stand out amid the snow and the crowd. Without it, I might have missed the senator, being as she is short and rather ordinary-looking.

    Klobuchar does not look like one of the most powerful people in the state. She does not look like one of the most ambitious politicians currently at work in Washington. She does not look like Minnesota’s most popular public official, which she is. She is neither beautiful, nor ugly. She looks pleasant, sensible, normal.

    Yet I could see as we walked into the high-school lobby that most people regarded Klobuchar as anything but normal. As she moved forward, her presence sent a ripple through the crowd, which had gathered to march in memory of Martin Luther King Jr. The school was full of people from all kinds of social strata. There were community organizers and aging hippies, eager students and dutiful civil servants. Some whispered as they saw her. Others pushed terrified children at her. More than a few wanted to talk.

    “Thank you for fighting for us!” yelled one woman.

    Klobuchar stopped to shake her hand. She seemed to know the woman, though that, of course, is the art of politics. The senator mingled easily, politely chatting, joking, and seeming to enjoy herself.

    A tall, older African American man came up to greet her.

    “That’s Reverend Battle,” she told me after he...

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