Does Cory Booker Really Want to Come to Washington?

Polls predict the popular Newark mayor will easily win his Senate primary tonight. Poor guy

  • Share
  • Read Later
Eduardo Munoz / REUTERS

Newark Mayor Cory Booker announces his plans to run for the U.S. Senate seat during a news conference in Newark, N.J., on June 8, 2013

UPDATE: The Associated Press called the Democratic Senate primary election for Cory Booker at 8:42 p.m. E.T. with approximately 7% of counties reporting.

Little suspense surrounds today’s Democratic Senate primary election in New Jersey, which Newark Mayor Cory Booker should win in a cakewalk. But there is an element of mystery here: Why on earth does Booker want to be a U.S. Senator?

Booker’s claim to fame is the ancient art of retail politics, with a very modern social-media twist. Snowed in during a blizzard? Just tweet him and he’ll come dig you out. (Maybe personally.) Pothole? Let him know; he’ll send a crew. Booker might even come and rescue you from a burning house.

These prolific deeds and tweets — and tweets of deeds — have helped make Booker one of New Jersey’s most-admired public figures, with an approval rating in the high 60s earlier this year.

Now consider the U.S. Senate. Retail politics is a skill wasted in that stuffy chamber, where Senators only have to go out and touch real people — er, shake hands with their constituents — once every six years. Senators don’t fix potholes. Never mind flaming buildings — they rarely even kiss babies. Senators spend their days in meetings: with lobbyists, with interest groups, with other Senators, with the Administration, with fundraisers and with their leadership. They’re inside operators.

In other words, Booker’s frenetic energy and love of real-world interactions are far better suited for a big city like Newark. Or Iowa or New Hampshire, and the other stomping grounds of a presidential candidate, something the ambitious Booker likely aspires to be someday.

For Booker, the obvious path from Newark to the White House would run through the New Jersey governor’s mansion. Leading a state is generally considered the best training for a presidential run. (Think Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter and more.) Unfortunately for Booker, New Jersey’s current governor, Chris Christie, happens to be at least as popular as he is, and maybe even more so. He’s thought to have a lock on re-election. Booker considered a challenge to Christie anyway. But then Senator Frank Lautenberg died, and suddenly a new path opened up. It may not have been Booker’s first choice. But it was less risky than taking on Christie, and more promising than sticking around stubbornly depressed Newark. Booker must know that a sitting mayor has never been elected President.

“I would have bet on Chris Christie [to beat Booker in a governor’s race], and I think deep down Booker thought the same. So a Senate seat is the other big prize, and it was available for the taking,” says Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. “When he inevitably runs for President, Booker will claim executive experience from Newark and national expertise via the Senate. Not a bad combination. Somehow, I doubt Booker plans a terribly long Senate stay before his next move.”

Indeed, the Senate is not a place for impatient people. It was a great, if brief, résumé builder for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama — not to mention the latest crop of presidential hopefuls, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul. But it is not a place to grandstand and to do anything really important you have to wait half a lifetime to accrue enough seniority. Just ask John Kerry: it took him 24 years to become chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Many smart, motivated politicians have come to the Senate only to throw their hands up in disgust at the chamber’s archaic rules and often glacial pace. There’s a reason it’s called the world’s most deliberative body.

Booker says he can shake things up in Washington. “It’s time for action and getting things done,” he declared in a primary debate last week. But Congress is badly gridlocked, and lawmaking has ground to a virtual halt.

Assuming Booker wins today and prevails against a weak GOP field in the Oct. 16 special election, his prize will be a backbench seat in a hated institution where he’ll be expected to dim his wattage, at least in the short term. It’s almost enough to make a burning house sound like fun. But for now, it seems, Booker will have to settle for it.

47 comments
AnthonyWeb
AnthonyWeb

Booker is a marxist and supports socialism. He's not what this country needs. He can talk a good line of BS, but his agenda is going to hurt our nation.

mrbomb13
mrbomb13

Judging by the article's content and tone, it appears that Mayor Booker's effectiveness as a personable politician will be significantly lessened should he be elected to the U.S. Senate.  Additionally, it's doubtful that his 60%+ Newark ratings will stay that high once he enters the Senate chambers (and thereby have less direct contact with his constituents).

Overall, his decision to run for Senate makes Booker seem like more of a political opportunist than the 'superhero'-persona he's created for himself. 

deconstructiva
deconstructiva

Jay, thanks for report and for replying to us. What sacred said - this blog is much better when you and your teammates engage readers.

JdReader
JdReader

Democrats also need a Senator who will call out Republican Senators on the Senate floor. 

SpikeLee
SpikeLee

FACT CHECK:

Cory Booker never seriously discussed challenging Chris Christie. He openly discussed running for Frank Lautenberg's Senate seat when the latter was alive.

Also weird to claim the Senate is no place for grandstanding, unless Jay Newton-Small doesn't understand the term, or who Ted Cruz and Rand Paul are.

carotexas
carotexas

Jay I am finding it hard to believe you wrote this.  I think you can scramble talking points so they do not seem so obvious.

Ivy_B
Ivy_B

Charlie Pierce reminded me that Cory is a Wall Street guy. In a different column today he pointed out that in the interview where Booker said he wanted to shake things up in the Senate, he mentioned Rand Paul and Ted Cruz as role models. Really?? Not a single Democrat is worth his thoughts?

http://www.esquire.com/blogs/politics/Cory_Booker_Has_A_Problem 

"Anyway, back in the spring of 2012, when the destruction wrought by the people who wrecked most of the national economy and stole what was left of it was thesub rosa issue in the presidential campaign, the president's campaign was making television ads to that effect. This was because the Republicans were on their way to nominating for president G. I. Luvmoney himself. In response,Cory Booker went onDisco Dave's Disco Dance Party and said that the president's ads were "nauseating."

'I have to just say, from a very personal level, I'm not about to sit here and indict private equity," Mr. Booker said. "To me, it's just we're getting to a ridiculous point in America, especially that I know I live in a state where pension funds, unions and other people are investing in companies like Bain Capital. If you look at the totality of Bain Capital's record, they've done a lot to support businesses, to grow businesses. And this to me, I'm very uncomfortable with. he last point I'll make is this kind of stuff is nauseating to me on both sides," Mr. Booker continued. "It's nauseating to the American public. Enough is enough. Stop attacking private equity. Stop attacking Jeremiah Wright.' "



JohnDavidDeatherage
JohnDavidDeatherage

Great.... another flaming liberal/progressive wants to run the country. It's worked out so well already!

joelcairo
joelcairo

There's no mystery here:  Booker is as ambitious as any politician.  The US senate position is one step closer to the oval office.  Mystery solved.

sacredh
sacredh

"But it is not a place to grandstand"

JNS, I disagree. What was Rand Paul's one-man-filibuster if not a grandstanding move?

sacredh
sacredh

"Why on earth does Booker want to be a U.S. Senator?"

A lifetime pension and healthcare immediately comes to mind.

gysgt213
gysgt213

"But Congress is badly gridlocked, and lawmaking has ground to a virtual halt."


What?  How did that just happen like that? Very weird. 



Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

Interesting post JNS. 

If Booker is indeed looking down the road to a presidential run then being in the Senate serving his strongest backers, the lovable bunch from Wall Street, makes perfect sense. He'll need their money for a national run.

One thing crosses party lines- politicians always running for the next highest office aren't serving their constituents, they are serving themselves. 

JNSmall
JNSmall moderator

@carotexas I'm sorry, whose talking points? The Democrats? It's not exactly flattering to the Senate. Republicans? I've just said they have like zero chance of winning this seat. Booker? I spend the whole story talking about how this isn't a great move for him. 

JNS

carotexas
carotexas

@Ivy_B I have not watched Morning Joe for a long time but he was very friendly with that group.

Openminded1
Openminded1

@JohnDavidDeatherage No worries we have the first black president and the last in our life time do to Obamas racist behavior. The whites who voted and put him in office twice have learned there lesson. And the black vote is not enough to put any one in office at that level. he is a good mayor for black newark, smart articulate and savy. he should stay out of the senate because the senate is all about lobby money and special interest. and i think he has been good for Newark or maybe detroit theres a city in need.

Openminded1
Openminded1

@joelcairo will not make it to Oval office ,Obama ruined that for future blacks. whites will not put another black in Oval office in your life time unless maybe you are 4 years old.

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

Good point, another freshman, Cruz has been a real wall flower too.

TyPollard
TyPollard

@sacredh 

And possibly a lifetime invitation to Meet The Press.*

* if John McCain is not available.

Openminded1
Openminded1

@Paul,nnto You are right about the self serving, wrong about him having a chance at the Oval office.

JNSmall
JNSmall moderator

@Paul,nnto @sacredh Being in the majority makes grandstanding very difficult. Plus, McConnell has no control over his conference.

JNS

Openminded1
Openminded1

@TyPollard @sacredh Yes like ReV Al Booker loves the TV cameras, but he will have to wait to get meet the press air has much as McCain does. good to hear you can be witty TY.

SpikeLee
SpikeLee

@JNSmall@sacredh "No, I mean that Booker is a Democrats and Democrats control both the Senate and the White House, which makes it hard to grandstand."

Bill Nelson and Russ Feingold made it look easy.  Also, just because I like the issues that Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley are supporting doesn't change the fact that they are grandstanding.

To my chagrin, and Jonathan Bernstein's pleasure, the Senate is an institution that supports grandstanding; not only due to holds, filibusters, and other arcane rules, but also the fact that it's much smaller than the Senate.

Openminded1
Openminded1

@JNSmall @Ivy_B @Paul,nnto You two need to get a room and pay by cash so your spouses do not see the bills. What is there a cheap way of communicating your love for each other?

Ivy_B
Ivy_B

@JNSmall No, I'm waiting for you for that! Will only be in the airport this time.

Ivy_B
Ivy_B

@Paul,nnto Basically two days, or two overnight flights. This year I'm going British Air via London. At least it's better since I decided a few years ago I am far too old to do this any way except business class!

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

I certainly endorse getting away from family during the holidays but that's one long flight!

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

Same as last year for you Ivy, no?

Ivy_B
Ivy_B

@JNSmall I'll be in Cape Town mid-November to early December, you could stop by and visit on your way home! ;-) Lots of Brit ex-pats there.

sacredh
sacredh

@JNSmall, maybe you can get TIME to spring for a sidetrip to Indonesia?

sacredh
sacredh

@JNSmall, I hope it's more talking to the people like Iran was and giving us a snapshot about what the non-government people are saying and thinking. We're looking forward to it.

JNSmall
JNSmall moderator

@sacredh @JNSmall Thanks! I'm heading to Australia in November. Nothing concrete before that -- I'll let you know if something pops up.

JNS

sacredh
sacredh

@JNSmall @sacredh OT, but do you have any more foreign trips planned? Your articles about your visit to Iran were great and thought-provoking.

sacredh
sacredh

@JNSmall , thanks for clarifying. I thought you meant Rand Paul was in the majority. We do appreciate it when you take the time to interact with us. It makes the swamp a much better place when the writersget involved. Thanks again for the reporting.

JNSmall
JNSmall moderator

@sacredh @JNSmall No, I mean that Booker is a Democrats and Democrats control both the Senate and the White House, which makes it hard to grandstand. He can't very well filibuster his own party's agenda... Sure, he can rail against House dysfunction, but who in Washington doesn't do that, including House Republicans?

JNS

sacredh
sacredh

@JNSmall , yes, thank you for interacting. Did you mean being in the minority?

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

Thanks for weighing in JNS. As to your first point, I'd have to think about that.

That McConnell, like Boehner, has lost any ability to lead gets no argument from me.

Openminded1
Openminded1

@JNSmall @Openminded1 By the way snobby on like you I am not a professional writer, paid for proper writing skills. I am how ever nicely retired and able to mess with bleeding heart liberals in 3 different languages and of course i only drink coffee. So i guess i will not get an invite to tea with the you or your literary crowd.

Openminded1
Openminded1

@JNSmall @Openminded1 No i speak Italian,french and english, Italian being my first language. Why are you a english teacher or just a snob from england? how many languages can you converse in tea lady.?