Booker Begins with a Bang

Where Things Stand

Here’s who’s in as of this week:

-      John Delaney

-      Elizabeth Warren

-      Tulsi Gabbard

-      Julián Castro

-      Kirsten Gillibrand

-      Kamala Harris 

-      Pete Buttigeig 

-      Cory Booker made a splashy entrance today, the first day of Black History Month

Welcome, Cory, to the party! Another bleeding heart liberal and passionate progressive joins the ranks – and he’s definitely a heavyweight. 

Who’s up next?

-      John Hickenlooper, who’s not exactly a household name, said it was a safe bet that he’ll throw his hat in the ring

-      BetoO’Rourke is taking the stage with Oprah in New York City this Tuesday – and while I wouldn’t bet that this is his announcement, we may hear some of his thinking soon


Keep an eye on …

-      Joe Biden told us that he isn’t on any sort of timetable for making a decision, reversing course from a recent comment revealing that he was nearing a decision

-      Jay Inslee is mulling whether to run for president or pursue a third term as governor of Washington


The exit ramp:

-      Richard Ojeda suspended his campaign, criticizing the establishment as holding him back

-      And in case you were wondering, Hillary Clinton definitely isn’t running again so let’s stop talking about that


On Cory Booker

For the last few weeks, I’ve noted that Booker had been particularly quiet and was likely lying in wait to make a big splashy entrance. Friday, we got exactly that.

With an impressive video and a slew of Twitter buzz, the senator from New Jersey burst onto the scene – touting a top-notch staff, a well-focused message, and deep connections in the early states. The media is already considering him to be in the upper echelon of candidates, rivaling Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren in announcement coverage. And no one doubts his ability to raise money.

As a resident of New Jersey myself, I’ve known about Booker for years – ever since his special election in 2013. He’s well-liked in the state and has served us well for four years. I like him a lot and am excited about his candidacy. He’ll make a great addition to the field.

He’s built a brand around himself as a compassionate, empathetic leader who speaks in soaring rhetoric and has a real vision for the country. In his launch video, he told a story about America as a struggle for justice – leaning heavily on themes of collective action, shared destiny, and earned progress. The images of civil rights activism in the video paired well with the symbolism of his launch. It’s a message that I think will appeal to many. And he’s been backing it up for years with his work on criminal justice reform.

But I’m struggling to put my finger on exactly how to understand a Booker candidacy in relation to the other candidates. While it’s still veryearly – and this is probably an unfair critique at this stage – I’m not sure if I should describe him as to the left or right of anyone in particular or what his leading issues are beyond criminal justice reform. I also don’t have a sense of “why him and why now” off the bat. While his message is strong, I as a voter want to hear how it connects to this moment in America – when inequality is skyrocketing, justice is withheld from too many, and our democracy is at stake. 

These are things, though, that will take time to develop over the course of a long campaign. For now, it’s enough that Booker is a compelling, endearing candidate – and I’m very glad he’s lending his voice to an important debate over the future of our party and our country.

On My Mind 

Happy Super Bowl Sunday – one of my favorite days of the year. May your football high holiday be full of fatty foods and free of politics.

Max Magid