Presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar makes her pitch in Pittsburgh area
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar campaigned in Western Pennsylvania on Wednesday in an effort to win back residents who voted for President Donald Trump in 2016.
The Democratic presidential candidate toured a training facility for trade workers in Robinson and held a meet-and-greet near the University of Pittsburgh campus in Oakland.
“He’s treating the people in this state like poker chips in one of his bankrupt casinos, and if we’re not careful, he’s going to make this country bankrupt,” said Klobuchar, of Minnesota.
The visit was the first of several stops on Klobuchar’s three-state “Blue Wall Tour,” which includes Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wyoming. They’re states that Trump won, flipping them from blue (Democratic) to red (Republican).
She touted her policies related to jobs and education, first touring the Keystone, Mountain and Lakes Carpenters Training Center in Robinson, which trains over 1,200 students in apprenticeship programs.
“I’m trying to mesh our economic needs with our students’ needs, and not just push a bunch of students into degrees that maybe we don’t need right now,” she said.
She pointed to one policy proposal that would extend loan forgiveness programs that are available to teachers and public servants to other high-demand fields, including jobs in the trades, doctors and nurses.
Klobuchar also pitched policies to make higher education more affordable, like offering free one-or two-year degrees and expanding the Pell Grant program for students at four-year colleges.
“We want to make it easier for you to pay off your debt and to go to college, but we’re not going to do it off the back of the working people that come out of this apprenticeship program and making them pay for college for a bunch of rich kids,” she said.
Meeting Amy Klobuchar
Later, at a meet-and-greet event in Pittsburgh, Klobuchar criticized Trump’s rhetoric. She promised to change the tone of political discourse at home and in the way the United States conducts foreign policy.
“That is going to mean stopping the hate. Can you imagine what it’s going to be like when you have a president and you wake up in the morning and there’s no mean tweets?” Klobuchar asked the crowd spilling out onto the sidewalk at Stack’d, a compact bar and restaurant in the Oakland neighborhood near the Pitt campus.
Among them was first-time voter Rachel Soloff, 18, from Philadelphia.
“I think I’m just trying to see whose ideas align with mine, and who would be a good face for America,” said Soloff, a Pitt political science major. She lists issues like climate change, gun control and immigration among her top priorities.
Ethan Trott, 20, a Pitt history major from Bradford, was happy to hear Klobuchar bring up plans to make college more affordable but noted that the cost of college includes more than just tuition. As a Pell Grant recipient himself, he said he’d like to hear more about her proposal to expand the program.
“I don’t think that goes far enough, because there are other hurdles, like housing,” Trott said.
Battling low poll numbers
Klobuchar has not yet made an impression on Pennsylvania voters, according to an August survey conducted by Franklin & Marshall College, which showed her polling at 0%.
An average of national survey results compiled by Real Clear Politics shows Klobuchar polling at 1.4%.
Nevertheless, it’s important that Klobuchar came to Western Pennsylvania, said Bibiana Boerio, a Democrat from Latrobe who lost the 2018 race for the 14th Congressional District to Republican Guy Reschenthaler, of Peters Township, Washington County.
Candidates need to spend time in the region — a lesson Democrats learned in 2016, Boerio said.
Klobuchar has “got a good head on her shoulders” and knows the issues that matter to Western Pennsylvanians, like health care, the economy and jobs, Boerio said.
“She understands how to get things done,” she said. “And that there’s no silver bullet.”
Jamie Martines is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jamie at 724-850-2867, [email protected] or via Twitter .