The polls opened in New Hampshire on Tuesday for the first-in-the-nation primary. WGBH Morning Edition host Joe Mathieu, on the road in Manchester, N.H., spoke with presidential candidate and Sen. Amy Klobuchar. This transcript has been edited for clarity.
Joe Mathieu: You've had, well, quite a couple of weeks. The story about you is this surge. You've seen and a remarkable jump, at least in the public polls, I wonder if you see that in your own internal polling and what do you think is behind it? What's going to happen today?
Sen. Amy Klobuchar: Well, all we know is in those little polling locations up in the northern New Hampshire, I've won. You know, eight votes. Come on. That we know for sure. And we also know that we've just had tremendous turnouts at our all our events, overflowing overflow rooms. We have raised over $3 million from regular people online since the debate. And I think what people don't know about me, because I worked very hard leading up to this to get to this point, multiple endorsements of legislators here in New Hampshire, the endorsements of every major newspaper, including The Union Leader and The Keene Sentinel and the Seacoast newspapers. And then, of course, we've got just the feeling out there. And, you know, the weather's a little cold. That's good for me because I announced in the middle of a blizzard.
Mathieu: That's right. That was a year ago in the middle of a snowstorm. And I just wonder, you've been traveling the country since then. You've had ups and downs. What have you learned from traveling the country for a year on the campaign trail?
Klobuchar: That people are incredibly resilient. There's a lot of people that are hurt every day by the things the president says, whether it's immigrants, people of color, whether it's when he goes after people's political views. But they just keep showing up and they have energy. And what I love about this right now, especially in a state like New Hampshire that has a sizable group of independent voters, is that that's got to be the coalition. It's got to be our fired up Democratic base big time, but also moderate Republicans and independents. That's how we win big and take back the U.S. Senate and send Mitch McConnell packing. You can only do it if you are able to win in some of those tough states. And I have the receipts. I've done it time and time again, winning red and rural districts and suburban districts.
Mathieu: You're the first face I saw this morning as you were wrapped around the front of the Union Leader which endorsed you.
Klobuchar: Well, you know why I like that? Well, they endorsed me. But what I really liked is we took that out and then it covered up Donald Trump's face. Because he was in New Hampshire doing a rally, and then that kind of wrapped over him. And so I think it's just a kind of sign of the kind of spunk and the aggressive campaigning that I'm going to be bringing to this race.
I do think when you take this guy on, you've got to do it with conviction, but you've also got to use humor. He's absurd. You know, when I announced in the middle of that blizzard, he went after me and called me Snow Woman, making fun of me for talking about climate change. And I hit back at him on Twitter and I said, I'd like to see how your hair would fare in a blizzard. I just think you have to do that all the time. I mean, it's absurd. He blames everyone for everything that happened.He blames Barack Obama. He blames the head of the Federal Reserve that he appointed. He blames the generals he commands. He blames the entire kingdom of Denmark. Who does that? He recently went after the prime minister of Canada, claiming that he cut him out of the Canadian version of 'Home Alone Two.' I mean, these are absurdities. And I think when you've got people struggling to pay their bills, to pay for their insulin and to pay for their struggling between child care for their kids and long term care for their parents, you need a president that's going to be able to put herself in people's shoes. This guy cannot do that.
Mathieu: I'm glad you brought that up. So let's say you're the nominee and there are general election debates. It's you and Donald Trump. Beyond the debates, even. The debate on social media. Can you imagine how difficult, how vitriolic and poisonous this campaign will be? What do you do when you're on stage with Donald Trump, when he's name calling, when he's insulting and berating you before the nation? How do you how do you deal with a bully like that?
Klobuchar: You just stand your ground. And I think people saw me do that during the [Brett] Kavanaugh hearings with all the bluster. And I stood my ground and the nominee actually had to come back and apologize to me. I will do that on the debate stage. I think the other argument I can make, when you look at the states that we lost in 2016 — Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio — I'm going to be able to say, 'The Midwest is not flyover country to me. I live there.' And those people that the president has been treating like poker chips and one of his bankrupt casinos, they are my friends and they are my neighbors.
And our backgrounds couldn't be more different. He gets his start from $413 million from his dad. My case? My grandpa was an iron ore miner, worked 1,500 feet underground. He saved money in a coffee can in the basement to send my dad to a two-year community college. My mom, grown up in Milwaukee, taught second grade until she was 70 years old. I'm a granddaughter of an iron ore miner. The daughter of a teacher and a newspaper man. First woman elected to the U.S. Senate from the state of Minnesota and candidate for president. And I'm going to look at him and say, you know what? You cannot fit $413 million in a coffee can in the basement. And I figure, when you are given opportunity from anyone, a parent, a grandparent, a teacher, you don't go into the world with a sense of entitlement like he has. You go into the world with a sense of obligation to lift others up instead of shutting them down.
Mathieu: Sen. Klobuchar, has this race here in New Hampshire, and I guess the entire Democratic primary nationally, come down to a choice between the moderate lean and the extreme progressive lean? Or is the media oversimplifying this?
Klobuchar: I think everyone looks at individual candidates and as we just discussed, I've got something special to offer here, something different. But I do disagree with some of my opponents. I'm the one that when we were asked, do you have an issue with a socialist leading a ticket? I was the only one that raised my hand. Now, Bernie and I are actually friends. We get along. I think that's transparent and obvious on the debate stage. But I don't think he's the best person to bring people in and win in those red and purple states.
I don't think we should kick 149 million Americans off their current health insurance in four years, which is what it's billed. Instead, I think we should expand on the Affordable Care Act and do exactly what Barack Obama wanted to do: non-profit public option. I lead most of the bills when it comes to trying to take on the pharmaceutical industry. They don't scare me. I'm willing to say: Good. They're thriving. Companies employ a lot of Americans, especially in the Massachusetts area. But we've got to have competition. We got to bring the prices down. And then finally, long-term care. I'm the candidate that came out with a big plan on that, as well as addiction and mental health. And for me, it's personal. My dad struggled with alcoholism his whole life. By the time I got married, he had three DWI's and the judge said, you got to choose treatment or jail. And he chose treatment and it changed his life. In his words, he was pursued by grace. And I think everyone should have that same right.
Mathieu: Thank you for that story. When you look at the outcome potentially tonight, tomorrow, people are talking about you placing second, placing third. If that happens, does that not change the trajectory for your campaign?
Klobuchar: Well, all I know is since that debate, we've raised over $3 million from regular people online. That's a big deal for us. And we've got to continue that, because I don't have a big bank account or the personal money of some of these people. The second thing is that we are headed to Nevada. I'm on that debate stage. That's an interesting state for me, because there they have two women senators whose voting records are very similar to me. They have majority women in the legislature. They have a major focus on tourism. I lead the tourism caucus, all those bills. And I've worked hard on immigration issues since I got to the Senate, despite coming from a state that doesn't have as much immigrants as Nevada does. So I think it's going to be interesting place for me to test my strength.