Minneapolis (AFP) - Democrat Amy Klobuchar was expected Sunday to join the 2020 White House race, adding a pragmatic voice from the heartland state of Minnesota to an ever-growing field of contenders hoping to unseat President Donald Trump.
The senator's website promised "a big announcement," to be made at an outdoor rally in a park along the Mississippi River near downtown Minneapolis.
There was little mystery about its contents: Klobuchar, 58, has been visibly building a national profile and fleshing out a campaign team as she works to stand out in an increasingly crowded Democratic field.
Her Midwestern roots could help, particularly given her proven popularity among voters in Trump-friendly heartland states that will prove crucial to Democrats' hopes in 2020.
Klobuchar, who was easily re-elected to a third Senate term in November, has never lost an election, boosted by an unpretentious demeanor and her roots in a region that prides itself on grassroots honesty and an ethic of hard work.
At odds with that image, her own work ethic has emerged as a focus of criticism in recent days. Several former aides have been quoted saying she is difficult to work for, with bouts of "explosive rage" leading to exceptionally high staff turnover.
Her defenders say she is simply someone who demands excellence, and that the allegations against her would not be made against a man.
- 'Minnesota Nice' -
Minnesota Republicans, with a poor record against Klobuchar, have tried nonetheless to blunt her announcement, portraying her as overly cautious and perhaps not up to a nationwide challenge.
"Minnesota Nice is not going to work on a national stage," Jennifer Carnahan, chair of the state's Republican Party, told the Star Tribune newspaper.
While many of the high-profile Democrats in the race are in the progressive lane -- liberal Senator Elizabeth Warren formally declared her candidacy Saturday -- Klobuchar has quietly gained attention in Washington as a centrist.
She is known for putting partisanship aside to pass legislation, something that has earned her a devoted following in Minnesota, and something American voters regularly tell pollsters they want.
"If you just go in your opposite corner of the boxing ring, you never get anything done," she said on ABC's "The View" late last year. "Courage is whether you're willing to stand next to someone you don't always agree with, for the betterment of this country."
In a historically diverse Democratic field, Klobuchar is the fifth woman -- including four in the Senate -- to seek the nomination.
Senators Kamala Harris of California, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Warren of Massachusetts have all thrown their hat in the race, as has congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii.
A number of male senators are either running (Cory Booker of New Jersey) or considering a run (Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Jeff Merkley of Oregon).
Former vice president Joe Biden is known to be weighing a candidacy, and former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke has said he will announce his plans this month.
Klobuchar, the daughter of a journalist and a teacher and the granddaughter of a Minnesota iron miner, has a reputation as a fierce defender of the rights of the working and middle classes, consumers and women.
Her profile rose last year when she won plaudits for her cool-headed questioning of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in a hearing focusing on allegations of sexual abuse and drinking.
Many at the hearing were taken aback when Kavanaugh, asked by Klobuchar whether he had ever blacked out, replied, "I don't know, have you?"
After a brief back-and-forth, she brought the awkward exchange to a close, saying simply: "I have no drinking problem, judge."
He later apologized to her.