U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar is logging more guest appearances on the national news shows, tracing a common path for candidates who run for president.
The Minnesota Democrat appeared on major Sunday morning news shows nine times in 2018, according to data analyzed by Media Matters for America, a nonprofit organization that tracks guests on such shows.
The frequency of appearances was the highest of any year of her Senate career and a sharp increase from 2017, when she landed three Sunday morning interviews, and 2016, when she appeared just once, on Fox News Sunday. Eight of Klobuchar's nine appearances on the Sunday shows in 2018 occurred in the last nine months.
On Tuesday, Klobuchar chose "The Rachel Maddow Show" on MSNBC — a ratings powerhouse that's increasingly seen as an essential stop for Democratic candidates courting voters — as the platform to reveal that she planned to make a big announcement Sunday. She's appeared on that program at least three times in the last three months alone.
Klobuchar is not the only 2020 hopeful appearing on such shows. And, presidential ambitions aside, news in Washington often drives the bookings. About a third of her Sunday show appearances came because of her role as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee during Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing.
But even when policy is the primary focus of the questioning, the interviews have given her a chance to address speculation about her presidential plans. On-air references to merely discussing a potential run with her family got picked up by several news outlets in late 2018.
Even as the influence of social media and other information sources grows, the Sunday shows and cable networks remain essential for reaching insiders and political junkies who can make or break nascent presidential campaigns. And these come on top of numerous TV appearances and coverage in Minnesota.
"The ratings of the cable shows put together probably don't amount to an electoral vote, but if you look at the political press and the potential staff and potential donors and local activists in places like Iowa, these intensely interested people are the ones who watch these shows," said Marty Kaplan, who was a deputy campaign manager for former Vice President Walter Mondale and now studies media and politics at the University of Southern California. "Being on their radar screen and making an early and ideally favorable impression is what matters. The way you do it is by meeting them where they are, which is, for better or worse, through those shows."
Klobuchar, meanwhile, is not new to appearances on cable news or Sunday shows. Her first appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press" was a televised debate against her GOP opponent during the 2006 U.S. Senate campaign. In her book "The Senator Next Door," Klobuchar recalls prepping by watching past recordings of the show on her VCR and touring the studio ahead of the debate.
"In the end, I felt it was a good performance," she wrote.
Torey Van Oot • 651-925-5049