Given the opportunity yesterday, Mayor Cory Booker wouldn’t endorse Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s re-election in 2008.
On the 44th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, the 83-year old Lautenberg was scheduled to attend an anti-violence rally in Ivy Hill Park with Booker, but he didn’t make it. His office reported a scheduling conflict.
Booker did go to the event, which was sparsely attended.
“I haven’t even thought about that right now,” a fatigued mayor told PoliticsNJ.com in response to whether he would support a Lautenberg re-election bid. That was his only comment on the subject at an event where he remained focused on making Newark safer, outlining new crime fighting laws at the state and local level in addition to calling on volunteer support from the community.
Along with U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, U.S. Rep. Bob Andrews and U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman, Booker, a proven fund-raiser and electrifying speaker, is sometimes mentioned as a potential U.S. Senate candidate.
His critics say he’s using Newark as a springboard to higher office, while some longtime allies point out that the 37-year old mayor won’t be able to go anywhere until he records executive experience in Newark and demonstrates effectiveness over time.
Several recent polls show that a majority of voters believe Lautenberg is too old to effectively serve in the U.S. Senate, but those close to him say the senator is more vigorous than men half his age and is enjoying his service now more than at any other time. On a professional level, he gets along far better with junior Sen. Robert Menendez than he did with Sen. Robert Torricelli.
At his advanced age, Lautenberg has repeatedly shown he doesn’t care who he offends at this point, ramping up an aggressive show of contempt for the Bush administration and becoming revitalized in his role as a blue state darling. Additionally, his party is in the majority, so he can lead the senate Transportation Safety Committee and satisfy the policy fiend in himself by actually driving the agenda.
Whether Booker runs or not, the endorsement of Newark’s mayor has traditionally been a helpful battle component for any Democrat running a statewide campaign.