ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Four of the senators sitting in that impeachment trial today are also running for president. Their role as de facto jurors means they are not campaigning in Iowa just days ahead of that state's caucuses.
AILSA CHANG, HOST:
So they've had to get creative in their efforts to reach voters. They're sending surrogates to campaign for them.
SHAPIRO: And Senator Amy Klobuchar has settled on an unorthodox surrogate. It is not a person but, rather, a hot dish.
CHANG: What, might you be asking, is a hot dish?
LEE DEAN: There's really four parts to it, although no cook would give you that much detail. They would just say, oh, yeah, throw in a little bit of this and a little bit of that.
SHAPIRO: That's Lee Dean, food editor at the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, Minn., Klobuchar's home state. Those four ingredients are meat, veggies, a starch - often tater tots - and something to hold it all together, like cream of mushroom soup.
DEAN: Mix everything all together. Pop it in the oven, and you're good to go in about one hour or less.
CHANG: Now, Klobuchar has consistently pushed her Midwestern roots as key to defeating President Trump.
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AMY KLOBUCHAR: I know what it takes to win in the Midwest. It's not flyover country to me. It's home.
SHAPIRO: The hot dish outreach strategy serves as a way to wink at Iowans that she's one of them. And Dean says there is something very Midwestern to the clean-out-the-cabinets efficiency of hot dishes.
DEAN: Just, basically, very practical - that's what Midwesterners are at heart.
CHANG: But as a campaign strategy that's supposed to resonate throughout the Midwest, something may have gotten a little lost in translation between Minnesota and Iowa.
ERIN GRACE: I don't think that hot dish is a term we use here. It's casserole. It's goulash.
SHAPIRO: Erin Grace is a columnist with the Omaha World Herald in Nebraska.
GRACE: I can look out my window from my desk and see Iowa right now.
CHANG: Grace was in Iowa this month tracking Klobuchar's hot dish strategy for a recent article, and she noticed a difference in terms.
GRACE: They're using this to get people in the door, literally using it by bringing one over. And it's just nothing I grew up with, so let's have a little fun with it.
SHAPIRO: So in these days of dissent and division, can something as simple as a hearty meal avoid controversy? Grace believes it can.
GRACE: It's not like you write off your Pepsi friends because you like Coke, right? - or turn away from someone who order soda. We say pop here. So there's differences that matter, and this is one that doesn't.
CHANG: Erin Grace did want to make one thing clear. It's not like this is some kind of sacred dish.
GRACE: It's not like we make it at home every Thursday night.
SHAPIRO: That said, after all the buzz around her article, she tells us she's making one for supper tonight. I'd call it dinner.
(SOUNDBITE OF PRINCE SONG, "I WANNA BE YOUR LOVER")