With the Democratic National Convention over and nominee Hillary Clinton seeing a resulting bump in the polls, some experts are saying that New Jersey’s own Senator Cory Booker could go down as the breakout personality of this Democratic nominating cycle. Booker gave a well-received speech the first night of the convention where he made the case for killing Republican nominee Donald Trump with kindness.
With the Democrats largely at a loss for young, rising talent within the party, Booker’s marquee placement at the convention — where he sat next next to former President Bill Clinton before and after his speech and amped up the crowd before its overwhelmingly positive reception for First Lady Michelle Obama — could be a sign of bigger things to come.
Seton Hall political science professor Matt Hale compared the speech to President Barack Obama’s during the 2004 convention, when he was still an Illinois State Senator. That keynote address paved the way for Obama’s rise to the presidency four years later. Hale said a 2020 or 2024 presidential run from Booker would not surprise him.
“I think Cory Booker was attempting to have a moment similar to Obama’s moment in 2004,” Hale said. “I think he did that to show an excitement about him and about the party.”
Hale added that he believes Booker timed the speech well, and has wisely shied away from drawing attention to himself too early. Unlike his time as the mayor of Newark, Booker’s Senate tenure has been marked more by appearances in support of fellow Democrats than ones that chiefly benefit his own public profile.
“He’s gone to the Senate and been willing to be just a hard worker in the Senate as opposed to the rockstar attention-getter,” Hale said. “I think he’s really working to help his Senate colleagues,” he said. “There could have been a sense that he’s kind of all hat and no cowboy.”
Rider University’s Ben Dworkin said that Booker’s loyal campaigning for Clinton appears to have paid off.
“The fact that he was given such a prominent place to speak, a prominent time-slot to speak during the convention, indicates that clearly the Clinton campaign thinks of him as a prominent national Democrat who can deliver a message,” Dworkin said. “I’m sure it bodes well for whatever ambitions he has for the future.”
Booker’s speech came after he had been vetted to be Clinton’s running mate, though the prize eventually went to Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia. Though he was passed over for the vice presidential slot, Montclair University’s Brigid Harrison believes his address was the right speech for the right convention and will help cement his political future.
“I think that he did very very well in his address,” Harrison said. “I think that for some people it was the first time that they had heard him speak and I think that that kind of highlighted his role as an upcoming star on the Democratic scene.”
The rancor between supporters of Clinton and supporters of her primary rival Bernie Sanders following Wikileaks’ publishing of DNC emails, Harrison said, may have driven more attention to the convention. Though Booker faced scattered heckles from Sanders supporters that night, more people may have heard his speech as a result of the controversy of the DNC’s alleged favoritism toward Clinton.
“I actually think that the kind of discord that we saw in the beginning increased interest on the part of voters. If it had just been a simple coronation, maybe people wouldn’t have tuned in as much Maybe people wouldn’t have been talking as much,” Harrison said.
“There was a lot of pride in the fact that Senator Booker had had that opportunity.”