She told Iowans that “many, many, many, many times” the ultimate nominee was not the candidate leading in polls at this point, and she offered examples: Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama.
On Friday, more Iowans filled in cards at her events committing to caucus for Ms. Klobuchar than any day of her candidacy.
Still, it is far from certain that post-debate momentum alone will make her a viable candidate. If she fails to make the next debates, she said, she will run at least through the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 3. When asked how high a finish she would need to continue, she offered only a tight-lipped chuckle.
She did not hint at any strategy shift to create a breakthrough. She believes her best argument to be the nominee is that she is the most electable, as a heartland senator with proven appeal to swing voters, as shown in her re-election to a third term in 2018 when she carried Minnesota regions that Mr. Trump had won by double digits.
Two voters who committed on Saturday to caucus for Ms. Klobuchar, Tom and Dorinda Pounds, had watched earlier debates torn among her, Mr. Buttigieg and Mr. Biden.
“This debate, she finally got a chance to talk, and the way she handled herself really made a big difference,” Mr. Pounds, a retired county administrator, said at a Klobuchar appearance in Waterloo.
During the debate, in addition to calling out Ms. Warren, Ms. Klobuchar also attacked Mr. Trump more aggressively than Mr. Biden did. Ms. Klobuchar’s newfound readiness to swing a saber appealed to many who came out to hear her.