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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Amy Klobuchar energizes Florida Democrats on Hillary Clinton's behalf

Minnesota U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar addresses the Florida Democratic Party State Convention in Orlando on Oct. 31, 2015.


Minnesota U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar addresses the Florida Democratic Party State Convention in Orlando on Oct. 31, 2015.



Neither Hillary Clinton nor Bernie Sanders are here in person at the Florida Democratic Party's state convention this weekend in Orlando. Both campaigns are well-represented, though, and Clinton's campaign arranged for a prominent Democrat to address the state party faithful on her behalf: Minnesota U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

In an energetic speech, inflected with humor, Klobuchar sought to energize the delegates into mobilizing for victory in 2016. She emphasized the importance of Florida's role in the presidential race, but also as one of the critical states that could decide which party controls the U.S. Senate in 2017.

"I hope you know what state is at the epicenter of getting this done," she said. "We actually need five states, but we will not do this if we don't have Florida."

With sights set on the White House himself, Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio isn't seeking re-election in 2016. Several Republicans are competing in the GOP primary, while U.S. Reps. Alan Grayson and Patrick Murphy are duking it out for the Democrats.

Klobuchar finished her speech by recounting her own effort to win one of Minnesota's two seats in the U.S. Senate during the 2006 election, when at the time much of Minnesota's leadership -- like Florida's now -- was filled with Republicans.

"In just a few years, we took back control," Klobuchar said. "Never take 'no' for an answer."

Clinton's absence from the convention, as well as Sanders', didn't go unnoticed by the Republican Party of Florida, which is scheduled to have 12 of of the 15 Republican presidential contenders at its Sunshine Summit in mid-November.

"Her absence at this convention is a clear reflection of the lack of momentum and grassroots organization that Florida Democrats have going into 2016," RPOF said in a statement.

Shortly after Klobuchar's speech to the Democratic delegates, she met for a one-on-one interview with the Herald/Times. Here are some of the highlights of our conversation:

On the message she wants to send Florida Democrats on Clinton's behalf:

"You’ve seen incredible momentum in her campaign and that’s all due to her. She has been going out there, giving more personal interviews, so people get to know her again. When you’re secretary of state you have to go all around the world, representing our country; it’s a different kind of job.

Secondly, her strong performance in the debate where she really showed her skill in knowing what matters to people in this country, and her skill in actually putting together some policy proposals – whether it is taking on the high cost of prescription drugs or doing something about it, or whether it is doing something to make it easier for families to afford college. I think people who tuned in –- and their were millions of them –- got to see that.

Finally, her political hearing in Congress and how she was really able to withstand 10 hours of questioning. That answered a lot of questions about how strong she is and how strong she’s going to be as a candidate and strong as a president."

On RPOF's criticism of Clinton's absence:

"We know that politicians can't be everywhere at once, and we know that Hillary Clinton has shown her strong devotion to Florida over the years. She has been here multiple times and, also, Bill Clintion has certainly made Florida a priority. I think you’re going to see an incredibly strong operation in Florida and a devoted presidential candidate and president to this state."

On Rubio and Jeb Bush and their contrast to Clinton:

"We have seen them and other candidates support things, like significant changes to Medicare and Social Security. When you look at the (Paul) Ryan budget, Bush’s support for his brother’s attempts years back to privatize Social Security -- these are major issues for seniors in Florida.

And you look at some of the suggestions on immigration reform -- I supported the Senate bill and I know Secretary Clinton is strong on this issue. You want order at the border. The compromise bill, which was supported at the time by Senator Rubio, was a bill that would have put that funding into the border but would have made a better legal immigration system as well.

When we find out who the candidate is, they’ll be debated with the individual candidates. But right now I look at their proposals versus hers, and there’s a vast difference for middle class families."

On who's the bigger threat to Clinton between Bush and Rubio:

"The pundits will have to evaluate that."

On the calls by some that Rubio should resign:

"I think that’s between him and the people of Florida."

[Last modified: Saturday, October 31, 2015 3:07pm]


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