The Likability Project: If They Call You a Mean Girl, Can You Be President?

Joanne Bamberger
5 min readFeb 11, 2019
Image by Lorie Schaull/Flickr/CC License

If people think you’re a mean girl, can you still run for president?

If recent stories that leaked days before Amy Klobuchar announced her 2020 presidential campaign are the only things you’d ever heard or read about her — which is probably the case with many Americans — you might wonder how on earth “Amy” (as she is referring to herself on her campaign signs) could even think about running for the White House.

As expected, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar announced her presidential campaign this past weekend, complete with an obligatory mid-winter Minnesota snowstorm testing her ability to stay on message while trying not to worry about what all those flakes were doing to her hair!

Until about a week ago, Klobuchar seemed to have escaped the attacks of opponents, as well as the media, about whether she meets the infamous likablity test so many voters and political pundits have for women politicians. Klobuchar is someone who has long garnered praise for her pragmatism and intellect. Not long after she was elected to the Senate, she was called a “rising star” in the Democratic party and was described early in her Senate career by the Huffington Post as the “smartest” U.S. senator. One recent article examining her chances for the White House referred to her as soft spoken and savvy.

Those who praise Klobuchar say she is brilliant and works tirelessly for her constituents, and that she expects the same work ethic from her staff. Those who saw her take on Brett Kavanaugh at his Supreme Court confirmation hearing know she’s prepared, pushes for real answers like the former prosecutor she is, and won’t let someone give her the run around.

So, everything seemed good for her on the likability front, that is until reports started to swirl that the announcement for her White House bid was imminent. Then, news stories started appearing contending that Klobuchar was having a problem finding someone to run her campaign because of how poorly she reportedly treats her staff. Some of the stories claim that she loses her temper easily, that she’s thrown things at her staff, and that she routinely berates those who work for her. These stories stopped just short of actually calling her a mean girl or labeling her the…

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Joanne Bamberger

Author, opinion journalist, attorney, photographer. Entreprenurial Journalism Fellow, Newmark J School/CUNY