The state’s first-in-the-nation presidential primary is just two weeks away, and over the past year — in several cases longer — would-be Democratic nominees have criss-crossed the state, announcing plans, shaking hands and trying to separate themselves from a packed field. Some have dropped out. Some were, for various reasons, never seriously considered. More than a handful remain.

As The Sentinel’s editorial board set about trying to winnow this field, we first asked ourselves: What is our goal? Do we want to recommend the candidate we think has the best chance of winning in November? One common line of thinking among Democrats is, after all, that the single most important task at hand is to defeat Donald Trump, and little else matters. Our take is that while having a realistic chance of winning is an obvious need, there are multiple candidates who, if nominated, could win, depending on how well they campaign and how eager voters are for change.

The nation would not be well-served by focusing only on turning back the clock and not addressing what led many voters to be so disenchanted in the last election.

We therefore turned to this simple question: Who would, if elected, make the best leader of the nation? As one might imagine, while the question is simple, the answer is rather involved.

The Democratic field is filled with candidates who have much to offer. Some are big on ideas, others on details. Some offer a fresh view, others a history of service and experience. There are very progressive choices and more moderate ones, and even within those categories, some clear divisions. In interviews with a number of them, we were impressed in a variety of ways; sometimes by the depth of ideas that had previously seemed mere concepts; sometimes by the candidates’ command and knowledge of a wide variety of key issues. There were, too, cases where upon delving past the sound bites, we found less substance than we’d have hoped for. Videos of all our interviews can be viewed at SentinelSource.com/politics/election_2020, and we encourage readers to view them in coming to their own conclusions.

Our criteria — and mind you, even with a raft of research, conclusions on such often came down to impressions as much as cold, hard facts — included, for lack of a better term, leadership: Can this candidate capture the attention of voters and command a nation? We also considered their platforms and proposals, with two goals. First, would their ideas make our nation stronger, move the needle for the vast swath of Americans whose discontent was so apparent in 2016 and continues today? Second, are those plans achievable? Do we think that person could get at least some movement on their key proposals even if they don’t have a like-minded Congress?

Our nation is divided to an extent it hasn’t been in 150 years. Many Americans face the same difficulties, but see totally different directions required to solve those problems. So the last of our criteria was: Does the candidate have a blend of experience and temperament to help bridge that divide, rather than widening it? Would they work toward the policies they advocate by seeking compromise and reaching out, rather than by becoming entrenched and furthering our political differences?

The candidate we felt best meets all those criteria is Amy Klobuchar.

The senior senator from Minnesota and former county attorney’s platform is not based on revolutionary ideas, but on achievable ones. Klobuchar is, in that way, a true moderate in these times. Whip-smart and knowledgeable, she’s set on progress, but tempered by the political realities a new president would face. Her record in Washington is one of getting things done, even when that requires reaching out to her GOP counterparts. Most candidates say they can “reach across the aisle” and “bring people to the table.” She’s done it.

Asked what, if any, responsibility the government has to address income inequality, Klobuchar posited two plans: First, ensure there’s a safety net for those who need it; second, provide the opportunity for people to improve their economic standing. Toward that end she favors increasing the federal minimum wage and initiatives such as paid family leave and subsidies to make housing more affordable. She has plans targeted to assist seniors and to combat drug and alcohol addiction and improve mental health care.

On health care, she touts strengthening and building on the Affordable Care Act, protecting those with preexisting conditions and adding a public option that would help reach everyone. Through reinsurance and other cost savings, she hopes to lower premium costs, and would work to make prescriptions more affordable. Her plans aren’t the most far-reaching, but seem, to us, important steps that can be realized without adding trillions of dollars in revenue or piling up the nation’s dangerous debt-load further.

Klobuchar’s most far-reaching plans, perhaps, are those meant to address our aging infrastructure and climate change. Asked what her biggest hope is for change in the next four years, she listed climate as her top priority.

Again, there are several well-qualified candidates in this race. What sets Klobuchar apart is her combination of experience and approach. Her record of getting things done without dividing is crucial to our nation at this point. Make no mistake; the former prosecutor for Minnesota’s largest county can be tough as nails, as she demonstrated during the nomination hearing on Justice Brett Kavanaugh. But she also knows business is business and tearing down bridges is no way forward.

Forward is where our country needs to be heading. And, in these extremely divided times, we feel Amy Klobuchar is best suited among the Democratic field to get us there.