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Klobuchar’s exit means opportunity for Sanders in Minnesota

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Amy Klobuchar’s decision Monday to drop out of the Democratic presidential race less than 24 hours before polls open in her home state’s Super Tuesday primary created an opportunity for front-runner Bernie Sanders — and posed a dilemma for her supporters.

The race had been tightening between Klobuchar and Sanders on her home turf as his campaign surged nationally. Her decision to drop out and endorse Joe Biden was part of an urgent move by moderates to unite behind Biden to blunt the rise of the progressive Sanders.

The results on Tuesday night will show whether Klobuchar’s decision cleared a path to victory in Minnesota for Sanders, who was headlining a previously scheduled rally Monday night in St. Paul, or whether her endorsement of Biden swayed many voters in a state where he had tepid support.

In the 2016, Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by just 44,765 votes (46.44% to 44.92%). But, in the Democratic presidential primary, Sanders smoked Clinton 61.69% to 38.31%.

Klobuchar’s voters could turn to the progressive Elizabeth Warren or to moderate Mike Bloomberg, who spent heavily in Minnesota as part of a Super Tuesday strategy, after skipping the opening states.

Thanks to Minnesota’s early voting system, plenty of ballots cast by Klobuchar supporters suddenly became irrelevant. Last Wednesday was the deadline for early voters to change their minds; more than 57,000 Democratic ballots had been accepted by the secretary of state’s office at the end of last week.

Among the early voters whose ballots don’t matter now is Democratic Sen. Tina Smith, who voted for Klobuchar last Friday. She said she wouldn’t endorse anyone else soon and doesn’t know whether Klobuchar’s endorsement of Biden will sway voters.

“I think most voters make decisions based on what they think is right,” Smith said.

State Auditor Julie Blaha spent Sunday on a bus tour barnstorming for Klobuchar. She said she wasn’t sure who to support Tuesday. The longtime party and labor activist said she’s looking for someone who can unite Democrats and get things done, though she wasn’t enthusiastic about Bloomberg, who’s slogan is “Mike can get it done.”

“I’m going to have a good think tonight and figure out what I am going to do, but I am ready to support the Democratic candidate no matter who the person is on the ballot,” Blaha said.

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