Warning of “growing signs of weakness” from front-runner Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, Sen. Cory Booker on Wednesday offered up a solution for Democrats searching out an understudy: himself.
“To those Democrats who are looking for an alternative right now,” Booker said at the National Press Club in Washington, “I want to make the case today very directly: look no further.”
The New Jersey Democrat pointed to Biden’s diminished fundraising and sliding support in some polls as signs that the former vice president’s campaign has weakened.
“I’m getting calls from people, Biden supporters, who want to hedge their bet,” Booker said. But he did not point to any factors that might be contributing to doubts about Biden, and noted he maintains “a tremendous amount of respect” for the former vice president.
Booker’s remarks came in response to reports this week of some angst-ridden Democrats fretting about the primary field as it stands today. In a time-honored tradition of presidential primaries, the political hand-wringing has included some chatter about late entrants to the already saturated field, according to those reports.
But “Democrats don’t need more candidates to enter this primary,” Booker said. “We have great candidates already.”
Still, the senator suggested that he would be better suited than some of his “great” rivals to unite disparate wings of the party and, crucially, energize African American voters.
“That’s what it will take to win next sprint and then to beat Donald Trump in the fall,” Booker said. “I’m prepared to do that, I’m building a campaign to do that, and I’m the only one in this race who has proven I can do that.”
But if Booker sees a would-be Democratic nominee when he looks in the mirror, he’s effectively been invisible to the party faithful.
In a CNN poll of Democrats released Wednesday, Booker drew just 1% nationally. The good news: he’s viewed favorably, and many Democrats said they want to know more about him.
The same poll showed former Vice President Biden leading comfortably with 34%, followed by Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Other candidates who might have a claim to the Biden-alternative mantle — Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg — all polled slightly ahead of Booker, although also in the single digits.
If Booker is to shake up the primary dynamic, he’s running out of time — and options. He has raised less money than the top- and second-tier candidates. And Booker reiterated Wednesday, he won’t start fights with his rivals purely for the sake of getting attention.
“Tearing your fellow Democrats down may get you a temporary boost in the polls,” Booker said, “but it’s not doing anything to help us choose the nominee who will beat Donald Trump, and could weaken the ultimate nominee.”