Long before she became a U.S. senator in her home state of Minnesota, and long before she entered the 2020 Democratic presidential race, Amy Klobuchar went for a long bicycle ride.
In the summer of 1981, when she was 21 and about to enter her senior year at Yale, Klobuchar and her father pedaled the 1,200 miles from Minneapolis to Jackson Hole. Even at that point she was already familiar with the area from many childhood vacations, Klobuchar told the News&Guide while she was in town for a fundraiser last week.
“I literally had never gone to Disneyland,” she said. “All we did was go to the Tetons.”
When Klobuchar visited the valley last week she recalled her family’s outings in Grand Teton National Park: floating the Snake River, hiking to Avalanche Canyon, Death Canyon, Solitude Lake.
Her home still features images of the mountains, some of which her father climbed with Glenn Exum, she said. (Within the first 15 seconds of her phone call with the News&Guide, Klobuchar announced she was “wearing an Exum Guides shirt right now.”)
“It actually was a huge part of my life growing up,” she said. “It’s really fun to be back, even just for a few hours.”
The occasion was a dinner and cocktail party, one of three recent presidential fundraisers in Teton County. On Aug. 19 a luncheon at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort raised more than $1 million for the Trump reelection campaign, and Democratic candidate Cory Booker was expected to hold one Sunday.
A spokesperson for Klobuchar did not respond by press time with the total donation amount from Monday’s events, but suggested contributions ranged from $250 to $2,800.
Historically, Wyoming has not been fond of Democratic presidents. The last to win a majority in the state was Lyndon Johnson in 1964. Coincidentally, Klobuchar is quick to note, he won alongside Vice President Hubert Humphrey, who, like her, was a U.S. senator in Minnesota.
Nevertheless, in the words of Teton County Democratic Party Chairwoman Marylee White, “it’s an unhappy playing field for Democratic Party politics in Wyoming.” But Klobuchar said she didn’t want to write off far-flung states. Instead, she has “tried really hard to run a campaign that’s about our whole country.
“I have been running on the simple idea … that it’s time to cross the river of our divide,” she said. “And it could be the Snake River.”
One instance of that divide is visible in a statement from Wyoming U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney’s office, issued ahead of the Trump fundraiser: “The president’s policies are benefiting Wyoming and the nation.”
Klobuchar disputes that. Though Trump rose to political power by appealing to disenchanted rural voters, she argues he has yet to make good on his promises to revitalize agriculture, invest in infrastructure and lower pharmaceutical costs.
“He talked a good game, especially for red areas,” she said. “But when it really comes down to did he get these things done … I think the answer is no.”
Though conversations about the growing harm of climate change often focus on coastal areas, she argues it is also a matter of great concern to rural regions. As the severity of wildfire increases in Western states, for example, she said, “We’ve got to be willing to at least talk about what’s happening with climate change.”
Though Wyoming’s economy is highly dependent on some of the products that have fueled climate change, like coal and oil, Klobuchar said that as president she would aim to set the U.S. on track for carbon neutrality by 2050. She said natural gas and renewable wind and solar energy would be key parts of that shift.
“I think that you have to have a transition in areas where you’re going to have a change off of fossil fuels,” she said.