The good news for Booker is that just about everyone in the political world will soon forget all of this. And even though it looks like he just bullied an aging man into retirement, few if any rank-and-file voters are paying attention or care. Booker was by far the most popular Democratic politician in New Jersey when he announced his ’14 intentions two months ago, and he still is today. This is his race to lose.
The question, though, is what the last two months say about his preparation for the national stage. For more than a decade, Booker has excelled at attracting fawning, uncritical press coverage, but as a senator with higher ambitions, he’ll face a level of scrutiny he’s unaccustomed to. In his public pursuit of Lautenberg’s seat, Booker has made a series of baffling and self-damaging decisions and, as Maggie Haberman put it, shown “the unmistakable signs of glass jaw syndrome.” Faced with tough media coverage, he’s reacted very defensively, and there’s been some upheaval within his political organization too.
Again, Cory Booker is very likely to be New Jersey’s next senator. But to those who are watching closely, his debut as a candidate has been an unimpressive one – a needlessly unimpressive one.