By: Nick Corasaniti
Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey dropped out of the Democratic presidential race on Monday, ending a nearly yearlong quest built around a message of peace and unity that failed to resonate with voters eager for a more aggressive posture against President Trump.
The departure of Mr. Booker from the crowded Democratic field, heralded at the outset as the most diverse in history, leaves just one African-American candidate, Deval Patrick, vying for the nomination in a party where black voters are an essential bloc of the Democratic base.
The decision came after Mr. Booker, who never cracked the top tier of Democratic contenders and consistently polled in the low single digits, fell short of qualifying for a second consecutive debate. The setback, the Booker campaign conceded in the past few weeks, would most likely doom the underdog candidacy at a time when the Democratic race for president is being overshadowed by an impeachment trial in Washington and a growing conflict with Iran.
“I got in this race to win, and I’ve always said I wouldn’t continue if there was no longer a path to victory,” Mr. Booker said in a statement to supporters. “Our campaign has reached the point where we need more money to scale up and continue building a campaign that can win — money we don’t have, and money that is harder to raise because I won’t be on the next debate stage and because the urgent business of impeachment will rightly be keeping me in Washington.”
Mr. Booker, who is also up for re-election to the Senate this year, still enjoys favorable ratings in the Garden State, which leans decidedly Democratic and hasn’t elected a Republican senator in more than 40 years. Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey won re-election by nearly 10 percentage points in 2018 after weathering a federal corruption trial.
Mr. Booker opened his campaign last Feb. 1, the first day of Black History Month, with a clarion call for unity in a deeply polarized time. Throughout his campaign, he was unrelenting in his optimism and his calls for love and healing, a message that apparently fell flat in an electorate energized by a fervent dislike of Mr. Trump.
Though the core of his campaign was built on emotional ideals, Mr. Booker focused heavily on policies that deeply affected cities like his home of Newark. He pledged to offer sweeping clemency to thousands of nonviolent drug offenders, and he pushed some of the other Democratic candidates to embrace more aggressive stances on gun control, becoming the first candidate in the field to propose a national gun-licensing program.
And he focused constantly on addressing the racial wealth gap, including an economic proposal known as baby bonds that would create a government-run savings account for every child born in the United States.
He cast himself as the candidate best suited to rebuild the “Obama coalition,” and his campaigning took him beyond the rotation of the four early states to key swing-state cities like Detroit, Philadelphia and Miami. His argument was based in a general election narrative, that in order to defeat Mr. Trump, Democrats needed to revive the massive turnout in cities to offset Mr. Trump’s rural appeal.
But Mr. Booker was never able to attract the support of black voters in both national polling and key early states like South Carolina, who were either supporting former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. or looking at more progressive candidates. As Mr. Booker held up his identity and lived experience as a rationale for his candidacy, he proved unable to bridge a party split more along ideological lines between the moderate and progressive wings.
Nonetheless, Mr. Booker seemed to confound supporters, pundits and political observers who remained mystified why he never had his “moment” during the primary. He started his campaign with a limited base of online donors and a heavy reliance on traditional big-dollar fund-raisers. Without ever experiencing a surge in support, which may have led to a surge in online fund-raising, the candidate was forced to run a shoestring campaign, unable to finance the frequent television advertising that has helped candidates like Tom Steyer become mainstays on the debate stage.
Indeed, Mr. Booker’s campaign raised just $6.6 million in the final three months of 2019, $28 million less than Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the top fund-raiser at the end of the year, raised during the same period.
In a final push to inch up in Iowa polling and make the January debate stage, Mr. Booker’s campaign ran roughly $300,000 in television ads in Iowa in the past two weeks, a modest sum in a race dominated by the millions spent on the airwaves by Mr. Steyer and former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York. The ads pushed Mr. Booker’s advertising budget to its limit.
And he struggled to shine as a unique political figure in a crowded and diverse field. His résumé, which had drawn national attention for its breadth throughout his career, was matched at every point. A Rhodes Scholar and former mayor? That also applied to former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind. The first black person to be elected senator from his state? That also applied to Senator Kamala Harris of California.
Though his departure from the race is unlikely to have much of an impact on other candidates’ polling, the Booker campaign was a leader in endorsements in Iowa and New Hampshire and had a particularly notable staff of Iowa organizers, setting up a likely scramble by the remaining candidates to secure both endorsements and staffers in the early nominating states.
Mr. Booker also released a video of his announcement on Monday, backed by a gospel-like piano track and drumbeat, that featured a greatest-hits rundown of his message on the campaign trail.
“So now I recommit myself to the work,” Mr. Booker said in the video. “I can’t wait to get back on the campaign trail and campaign as hard as I can for whoever is the eventual nominee and for candidates up and down the ballot.”
via New York Times – https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/13/us/politics/cory-booker-drops-out.html