Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey has been viewed as a possible contender for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020. He has not stated definitively that he plans to run.
But his appearances stumping for other Democratic nominees for Congress, as well as his performance on the Senate Judiciary Committee during the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, have raised speculation that he is indeed planning to challenge Donald Trump in 2020.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Senator Cornyn Accused Cory Booker of Violating the Rules of the Senate on September 6, 2018, in Order to Attract Attention
On September 6, during the hearing for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, Senator Booker argued that the hearing could not continue until any and all documents relating to the judge’s record be released. He threatened to release a batch of emails that were said to contain language about racial profiling. The emails had been deemed “committee confidential.”
During the ensuing debate in the chamber, Republican Senator John Cornyn called out Booker, accusing him of making a scene in order to raise his political profile. He told Senator Booker, “Running for president is no excuse for violating the rules of the Senate, or of confidentiality of the documents that we are privy to. This is no different from the senator deciding to release classified information that is deemed classified by the executive branch because you happen to disagree with the classification decision.
That is irresponsible and outrageous. And I hope the senator will reconsider his decision because no senator deserves to sit on this committee or serve in the Senate if, in my view, if they decide to be law unto themselves and willingly flout the rules of the Senate and the determination of confidentiality in classification. That is irresponsible and conduct unbecoming a Senator.”
Senator Booker did end up tweeting out the documents. However, Committee chairman Chuck Grassley then unclassified them. It’s worth noting as well that the emails in question were in fact already in the public sphere, having been leaked to the New York Times.
Nevertheless, the moment put Senator Booker firmly in the spotlight that week. His statement that this was his “I am Spartacus moment” went viral and prompted a huge number of memes and social media jokes.
2. Senator Booker Has Spent Most of His Free Time in 2018 Stumping for Democratic Candidates for Congress
In June of 2018, as reported by CNN, Senator Booker acknowledged that he was open to considering a presidential run. But he would not make that decision until the end of the year. “I’m not going to play coy. I’m sure after the midterm elections, I’ll give it a look. But to me, my momentum, my energy, my focus is 2018 and making sure I get re-elected in 2020.”
Meanwhile, he has raised his national profile by traveling around the country stumping for Democratic nominees for Congress. He has campaigned alongside candidates in at least 20 states including Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Minnesota and Missouri. It was recently announced that Booker would travel to South Carolina to stump for James Smith, who is running for governor. South Carolina is one of the first states to hold primaries during presidential elections.
Senator Booker’s upcoming appearance in Iowa has further raised speculation that he is going to run for president. On October 6, he will headline the Iowa Democratic Party Fall Gala. The fundraising event has been known to attract presidential candidates; Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders both spoke at the gala in 2015.
3. Booker Told Stephen Colbert in Early August That He Would Be Campaigning For a Second Senate Term in 2020
Senator Booker played it cool during an appearance on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert in early August. He discussed the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, stressing that “a lot is at stake in this moment,” especially in terms of health care.
During the interview, Booker encouraged young voters to cast ballots during the midterm elections and to speak up about the issues most important to them. “If America comes out and votes, I’m confident the right thing happens… people tell me that things are impossible. But this country’s history is a perpetual testimony to the achievement of the impossible when people are engaged, when people get involved, when people don’t treat politics as a spectator sport.”
Colbert asked Senator Booker directly what his plans were for 2020. Colbert said, “I will let you off the hook. And let you know that you are running in 2020.”
Booker laughed, responding, “I am up for re-election as a United States senator in 2020. So I will be running in 2020.”
4. A Slight Majority of New Jersey Voters Feel Cory Booker Should NOT Run for President, But a Majority Do Approve of His Performance as a Senator
On August 22, 2018, Quinnipiac University released a poll asking New Jersey voters how they felt about Senator Cory Booker.
When asked whether he should run for president, a slight majority indicated they did not believe he was ready for the White House. 51 percent of total voters said Booker should NOT run for president. A greater number of Republicans felt this way: 73 percent. As for the Democrats, 53 percent of those voters responded that Senator Booker SHOULD run for president.
The poll also asked voters how they felt about Senator Booker’s performance on Capitol Hill. 56 percent of total voters approve of his handling of the office. However, that support is very partisan. 84 percent of Democrats show a favorable opinion of Senator Booker, compared to just 15 percent of Republicans. 71 percent of GOP voters disapprove of Senator Booker’s performance.
5. Senator Booker in May of 2018: ‘I Love the Job I Have’
In May of 2018, during an event at the University of Chicago, Senator Booker at first appeared to shy away from the idea of running for president. He stressed that he loves his job as a senator.
But he again mentioned that he would not make any final decisions until after the midterm elections. “I don’t know what the future’s going to look like in terms of who’s running. When President Barack Obama ran, everyone in my region was on the Hillary train but I saw something in him that really inspired me… We are a long way away from this.
Senator Booker seemed to indicate that he did not want to get caught up in the “mosh pit of names” of people running for president. “Maybe there’s going to be somebody that you and I both will say, ‘she’s the one’ and ‘let’s get involved in supporting them.’ For me, and I tell my team all the time and this is not being coy, I’m focused on re-election in 2020. That’s where my energy is, that’s what lights me up in the morning when I get to go to work and represent my state and speak to national issues and drive the national conversation, I love all those things. After the midterms, let’s take a look at the field and make a final decision then.”
The potential field of Democratic candidates for president could include: Senator Kamala Harris of California, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, former vice president Joe Biden, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, former U.S. attorney general Eric Holder and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu.
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