There is considerable continuing rumbling within the ranks of the Democratic Party in New Jersey about the vice presidential viability of U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), whose appearance at a Red Bank fundraiser with 2016 frontrunner Hillary Clinton renewed that conversation within the political establishment.
Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo put a punctuation point on it at his swearing-in ceremony earlier this year. At that event, DiVincenzo said Clinton would consider both Booker and U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) as potential VP picks. Since that time, Menendez has had to eat a federal indictment on corruption charges, which removes him from the conversation.
That leaves Booker, the former mayor of Newark, whose closeness to Republican Gov. Chris Christie leaves some in the party fearful of an 11th hour general election lip lock a la Obama-Christie in 2012 Others dismiss Booker as either a. not Latino; or b. too regionally close to the New York-based Clinton.
DiVincenzo loves the idea.
“She’s going to need a running mate,” the county executive said of Clinton as a beaming Booker looked on.
In agreement with DiVincenzo, the U.S. Senator’s defenders quickly point out that Booker’s spoken Spanish – honed in Newark’s North Ward – may be superior to that of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro. Moreover, they cite Booker’s Twitter centric Obama 2008 origins as a transcendent hook for the youth vote.
One person who would be less than enthusiastic about Booker on the national ticket, however, is his old inveterate foe, state Senator Ronald L. Rice (D-28), whom Booker defeated in 2006 to become mayor of Newark.
PolitickerNJ asked Rice if U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) had done enough to woo the diehard progressive away from Clinton. Rice said no way. He backed Clinton in the 2008 Democratic Primary and he backs her in 2016.
“I’m a Clinton Democrat,” said Rice. “I’m talking about working relationships that go back to the Sharpe [James] years. I believe Secretary Clinton has an impressive resume and reach in the international community. I’m not jumping ship.”
But what about Booker on the ticket with Clinton? Would that make her a nonstarter?
No, Rice said. But he feels she would be making a mistake to pick Booker.
“Cory flip flops so much, she would have to keep him in line,” said the senator. “He wants to be president so she’d have to deal with that. And he’s still got to answer for the Newark Watershed. The Newark piece is frankly going to haunt him.”
Booker, in Rice’s judgment, should stay put in the U.S. Senate.
“When he was mayor he could buy his way through if he couldn’t work his way through,” Rice said. “With Clinton, by contrast, the line is drawn. There is no guess work there. She’s better off with someone more seasoned at the end. Diversity? Yes. A Black or Latino candidate would work extremely well on a Clinton ticket, but it has to be the right Black, or the right Latino. I think Cory would make her come up short.
“Cory’s better off where he is now, playing both things to the middle,” the senator added. “He has the intellect and learns well and quickly, but he still has not learned that he can’t be not one side today and the other side tomorrow.”