Bloomberg To Return To Arkansas, Klobuchar Draws Large Crowd

A large crowd greeted Sen. Amy Klobuchar Sunday at the Maumelle Event Center. It was her second visit to Arkansas since announcing her candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Credit Daniel Breen / KUAR News

Democratic presidential candidates are hoping to rally momentum in Arkansas during the final week before the state takes part in Super Tuesday's primary election.

On Monday, Michael Bloomberg’s campaign said the former New York City mayor will return to Arkansas on Thursday to speak at a rally in Bentonville. The announcement comes one day after Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota spoke to an enthusiastic crowd in central Arkansas.

Bloomberg’s state Campaign Director Evan Tanner told reporters during a conference call Monday that he hopes to exceed the outreach efforts of other candidates.

"Arkansas for Mike has made over 30,000 phone calls and sent over 112,000 text messages. We’ve knocked [on] over 9,000 doors and expect to hit about 30,000 doors by March 3rd," Tanner said.

The Bloomberg campaign has field offices in Little Rock, Fayetteville and West Memphis, and smaller satellite offices in Pine Bluff, Batesville and El Dorado.

Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott, Jr. also took part in the call with reporters. He is one of eight current or former African-American mayors in Arkansas who have announced support for Bloomberg.

"Mike has paid attention to the state of Arkansas. He has sought after our vote and wanted to hear our concerns. He’s doing the same thing not just in Arkansas, but in Oklahoma and many Super Tuesday states that have always been dubbed to be the ‘flyover states’ where people did not pay attention to us," Scott said.

Bloomberg has faced sharp criticism for the New York Police Department’s "stop-and-frisk" policies, which critics argue unfairly targeted minorities and were later deemed unconstitutional. However, Scott says recent initiatives have earned Bloomberg the support of African-American leaders.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg leading Little Rock's Martin Luther King Jr. Parade on Jan. 20.
Credit Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

"We’re excited about his Greenwood Initiative that’s focusing on one million new black homeowners, as well as his initiative to turn around a hundred disadvantaged communities that are generally low-income and black and brown, as well as a hundred thousand new black businesses," Scott said.

On Sunday, Sen. Amy Klobuchar made her second visit to Arkansas since announcing her candidacy, speaking to a packed crowd at the Maumelle Event Center.

Echoing Bloomberg’s practice of receiving endorsements from current and former elected officials, Klobuchar racked up two prominent endorsements by the last two Democratic Senators to represent Arkansas: Blanche Lincoln, who chaired the Senate Agriculture Committee on which Klobuchar served, and Mark Pryor, who earlier this month had endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden.

"If you look at her record, she's passed over 100 pieces of legislation where she's the lead Democrat. Even in the Trump years, she's passed 35 piece of legislation into law," Pryor said.

Despite finishing sixth in the Nevada Caucuses, Klobuchar told reporters following the rally that she wasn’t considering dropping out of the race ahead of Super Tuesday. During the rally, Klobuchar emphasized her middle-class roots and stressed the need for attention to rural issues like infrastructure, broadband access and affordable secondary education.

Like other moderate candidates seeking the Democratic nomination, Klobuchar positioned herself as a force for unity in a party and country becoming increasingly polarized.

"You get comeback kids. You get that you can do this, no matter where you come from or who you know. And I think you know that we need someone at the top of the ticket that has… the empathy, but also the ability to bring people with her," Klobuchar said.

Despite drawing a large crowd at Sunday's appearance, a recent poll conducted by Talk Business & Politics/Hendrix College showed Klobuchar with the least amount of support among the six top-tier Democratic candidates, with just under 5% of respondents saying they would vote for her.

Also over the weekend, backers of Pete Buttigieg canvassed 12 parts of the state, including all four congressional districts. In Little Rock, a group of about two dozen supporters of the former South Bend, Ind. mayor gathered in the living room of a house in Hillcrest before going out to knock on doors.

Former 2nd district U.S. congressional candidate Clarke Tucker, who attended Harvard University with Buttigieg, spoke to the volunteers about what to expect.

"I know we have some first-time canvassers, which is awesome. It’s really exciting that Pete has inspired people to come out and get involved for the first time," Tucker said. "I just want to tell you as someone who has knocked on a lot of doors, it’s actually a really awesome thing to do. It’s my favorite part about being a candidate."

Clarke Tucker (right) speaks to supporters of former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg at a home Saturday in Little Rock.
Credit Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The gathering was held at the home of Jean Crume, who said she has been intrigued about Buttigieg since he released his book "Shortest Way Home" a year ago this month.

"I found the book interesting," Crumb said, "so I started listening, watching, and pretty soon I was absolutely amazed and was onboard and have been watching and reading everything I possibly can."

She believes Buttigieg will do well in Arkansas based on how he has done in primaries and caucuses elsewhere in the country.

"How can you argue with that kind of success? And if we just had a little bit more time, I think that you would see him rise quickly, even in Arkansas."

Crume says she plans to attend a private fundraiser Wednesday in Little Rock featuring the candidate’s husband Chasten Buttigieg.

Arkansas is one of 14 states taking part in Super Tuesday on March 3. With more than 1,300 delegates at stake nationwide, a strong showing by one of the candidates could be key in the campaign for the Democratic nomination.