Whether calculated for this specific end or not, U.S. Senator Cory Booker’s (D-NJ) aye vote on the Iran deal reinforces a strategic political design long advanced by the senator’s allies who see him as a viable vice presidential option.
The heart of their long-standing argument for Booker as a running mate (presumably for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton), hinges on a two-fold argument: one, he can still project youthful excitement and maintain a vigorous campaign work rate (attributes especially helpful if he’s backing up Clinton); and two, he can harness those voters long ID’d as the core of Barack Obama’s 2008 support.
Booker’s “yes” vote on Iran dovetails perfectly with the latter brand play, giving him the option of reminding progressives that despite his turbulent relationship with their ranks, including his game of footsie with Gov. Chris Christie, his irritation over 2012 Democratic ads attacking Mitt Romney, his corporate outlook, and the pull of a pro-Israel financial base, he went leftward in support of Obama on the biggest vote of his career.
That’s the kind of play that gives a supposedly exciting candidate – at least by the reckoning of many Democrats – added luster for the base that would need to be activated as an enhancement to Clinton in a general election.
The choice of Booker for VP – long noted on this website – remains controversial, even ultimately politically untenable, in the view of some New Jersey Democrats.
In a nod to the increasing numbers of Hispanic voters nationwide, politics watchers point to the pragmatic efficacy of an Hispanic running mate for Clinton. But Booker’s backers note the hardly scintillating quality of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro and the dearth of a strong Latino Democratic Party bench; and again, make the case that Booker could most convincingly preserve Obama’s base in the aftermath of the president’s tenure.
Booker, after all, was an early and avid Obama supporter and a New Jersey co-chair of the president’s 2008 campaign.
PolitickerNJ talked to at least five Booker partisans who framed his viability that way, making the case for an extension of Obamaland, particularly as Clinton continues to dive in the polls in the wake of a federal email scandal. “We’re going to need excitement, and Cory is still seen – and won’t be for much longer – as an up-and-comer,” said one source close to the senator.
Others in the party disagree.
One North Jersey Democrat didn’t dismiss the case for Booker as a short list candidate for vice-president but said he would never make the final cut.
“Him and Clinton are too northeast,” said the source. “The Castros are viable in my mind. You’ve got to be able to swing through the south and the northeast just doesn’t do it, especially with Hillary tanking. Cory’s just too northeast. When you put that together with your growing Latino base, I just see him as a non-starter.”
Booker’s yes vote on Iran in support of Obama was not the only spark among insiders to renew the Booker as VP pick conversation.
The main origin, in fact, is Clinton’s continuing campaign trouble, as Democratic insiders now routinely offer their off-the-record assessment of the former U.S. Secretary of State as a doomed candidate.
Two powerful party insiders in as many weeks told PolitickerNJ that they believe that Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) would be a stronger candidate than Clinton at this point. They made the claim in light of a Republican field dominated by Donald Trump, arguing that Warren, once seen as too-left-of-center for a general election, or “too crazy,” in common parlance, would match up well with someone like Trump.
Democrats fear a Kasich-Rubio or Rubio-Kasich general election ticket, noting the Florida-Ohio/Ohio-Florida battleground upper-hand factor and the youth-Latino enhancements of Rubio. “If Rubio and Kasich were to get into a general election, whether it’s Clinton or Booker or just Clinton, our only hope at that point would be Donald Trump [as a third party candidate],” one Democrat said.
The behind-the-scenes worry about Clinton in New Jersey has significance in light of the strong political footprint Bill and Hillary Clinton made on the Garden State, which occupied battleground election territory nationally until Bill Clinton turned New Jersey into a blue state in 1992.
The conversations about Booker surface against the backdrop of a very real establishment concern now about lack of excitement surrounding likely prez nominee Clinton.