EXETER, New Hampshire — Politics is half appearance, and Monday afternoon by the New Hampshire coast, Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s campaign is no different. Forty-five minutes after doors opened, a young campaign staffer is pretending there’s a huge line outside, getting the audience to cheer their loudest so the crowds gathered in an attic overflow room and in the chill can hear them. A loudspeaker has been set up for the unfortunate masses yearning to see Amy, we’re told, and the lucky hundreds inside dutifully roar.
It doesn’t work: Out the window, maybe two dozen people mill around, unresponsive, looking bored. Upstairs, silence.
“It worked!” the young staffer yells. “They can hear you!”
Four-hundred can fit in the venue, the fire marshal tells me. Three-hundred in the main floor, 100 in the balconies, and another 100 in that attic with the loudspeaker. A full quarter of the main room is taken up by cameras and reporters, though save a distracted morning host and pollster from CNN, there are no national television reporters. When Amy asks the upstairs to let us hear them, stamping and muffled yelling shake the brick-and-wood town hall like an old-fashioned New England haunting.
The crowd is not huge, but as they cram into the standing-room-only hall 30 minutes east of Manchester, it’s hard not to recall the wide-spaced seats assembled for Jeb! in December 2015.
It’s not December, of course, and Sunday night’s poll showed Klobuchar in third place behind Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg, edging out Joe Biden and Liz Warren in Tuesday’s primary. Media allies are desperate for a Democrat who can win with moderates, black voters, and Americans who don’t want a senile president. The dirty little whisper among backroom political dealers is this means no Sanders, no Buttigieg and no Joe. This, they hope, is Amy’s time to shine.
Voters don’t have to wait much longer before the media’s latest fascination takes the stage to deliver the best canned New Hampshire stump speech she’s given since her last event. It’s actually incredible. On Feb. 10, 2019, after the president called her a “snowman(woman), she cracked back on Twitter, writing “Hey Donald Trump, the science is on my side and I’d like to see how your hair would fare in a blizzard.” She likes the joke. She’s used it on the stump, in a debate– exact same inflection and all. She’s used it so often “The Daily Show” mocked her for it in September– five months ago. Undeterred, she’s been using it all this year as well, and this afternoon we celebrated its one-year anniversary with a retelling. What a day to be alive.
At CNN’s “Climate Town Hall” just a few days before her autumn Comedy Central debut, Klobuchar introduced her climate-change plan for the first few days in office. An “On day one… and on day two” sort of thing, common on the trail, but with a kicker: “And on the seventh day, you’re supposed to rest.”
Guess what? Heard that crackerjack again on Monday in New Hampshire. Joke’s got legs, folks.
As the speech wraps up, the men of the Exeter Fire Department help to maintain order as the crowd emptied back into the town– a New England square so ideal it includes a bandstand, a chocolate shop, a bakery that quickly fills with reporters and hungry voters, and an inn founded in 1809– when the town was already nearly 200 years old. Inside, Klobuchar gathers the chilly folks outside and the devoted listeners upstairs in for pictures.
“I’m not decided yet,” a sticker-wearing senior shuffling for the exit tells the volunteer hoping to sign voters up to help with the primary.
“OK,” he responds nervously, adding a polite reminder: “Primary’s tomorrow!”