That sentiment was not confined to women. “I’m ready for a woman in the top spot,” said Eric Holey, a potter in Eau Claire who was delighted that candidates were visiting Wisconsin, since he said he still believes Mrs. Clinton’s failure to visit once she won the nomination contributed to the Democrats’ loss of the state. He will be evaluating candidates in part based on their support for education and health care for all.
Indeed, as Ms. Klobuchar made her way through the crowd, posing for selfies, shaking hands and tickling babies’ stomachs, Jackie Christner, a 74-year-old retired teacher who needs insulin shots, pressed her on whether she supported Medicare for all. Ms. Klobuchar said she wanted to work step by step, and supported expanding Medicaid or Medicare. “To me, that means universal health care,” Ms. Christner said. “But I’m not totally satisfied. How might she do that? I like to know more.”
Several voters interviewed shrugged off reports that Ms. Klobuchar had high staff turnover because she was an exceptionally demanding employer. “I think they say that about every woman — it’s so irritating,” Ms. Orth said. “I’m so sick of hearing that women are demanding. Come on.”
Ms. Klobuchar’s strong showing in rural Minnesota may offer promising signs in Wisconsin, traditionally divided between the liberal centers of Milwaukee and Madison and the more conservative north. Her potential Midwestern competitors could include Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind.
Wisconsin Democrats are nonetheless relishing the attention, emboldened by last year’s statewide Democratic victories, most notably reclaiming the governor’s office from a staunch conservative, Scott Walker, after eight years, and easily re-electing Senator Tammy Baldwin.
“Wisconsin is a place of optimism and energy for Democrats,” said Paul Maslin, a longtime Democratic pollster based in Madison. “We know we’re a big deal. We may decide this.”
But he does not think Ms. Klobuchar can coast on regional loyalty. “We’re not going to exclude people because they don’t come from the Midwest,” he said. “It’s a way that she gets into living rooms a little bit quicker than other people do, on a basis that’s a little bit more familiar.”