Dean Genth knew he was making mischief when he invited Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota to keynote the North Iowa Democrats' 10th annual Wing Ding fundraiser. He thought of her as a neighbor from the state next door and an inspiring example for Iowa, which has yet to elect a woman to the Senate or the House. But a second-term senator whose name is showing up with increasing frequency on lists of 2016 presidential prospects, speaking at a high-profile political event only about 2.5 years before the Iowa caucuses that launch the nomination race—well, he says, he wasn't surprised when his press release "kicked up a little bit of a dust storm."
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If you're thinking, why Amy Klobuchar, the real question should be, why not? The same goes for Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. All three have suddenly become staples of Democratic buzz and short lists, right along with Hillary Rodham Clinton. And while they may not be making as many headlines as Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, or Ted Cruz, they have the records and resumes to be taken just as seriously.
The three hot Republican prospects all are first-term senators elected in 2010 or, in Cruz's case, 2012. By contrast, Klobuchar and Gillibrand were first elected to Congress in 2006 (Klobuchar to the Senate, Gillibrand to the House, before she was named to succeed Clinton in January 2009). Warren was already a national figure when she was elected last year. Yet until recently, the Democratic names in heavy circulation as potential alternatives to Clinton were Vice President Joe Biden, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley.