In a wide-ranging interview here, Booker said he’s opposed to trimming benefits on entitlement programs, even as the president has considered doing so as part of deficit talks. He said the bad actors from the 2008 financial crisis should “absolutely” go to jail, even as the administration has yet to put shackles on top Wall Street executives. Booker “absolutely” supports medical marijuana, even as the president is reluctant about legalizing it…

In some ways, Booker may end up being the Democrats’ version of Marco Rubio: an attractive, eloquent and press-savvy pol whose core beliefs are firmly in line with his base — but who may break from his party from time to time.

While Booker’s style has irked some Democrats, he has only sparingly broken with the left , like on school vouchers and education reform. Asked to identify the issues in which he splits from his party in Washington, Booker couldn’t do it. “In some ways, you’re going to have to tell me that. I know where I’m passionate, and I don’t first ask, ‘Does my party agree with this or not?’”

And in recent days, he has taken steps to bolster his support on the left, including with a broad proposal calling for major reforms to the criminal justice system, including abolishing privately run prisons, pumping money into rehabilitation programs and reducing the incarceration rate by getting rid of mandatory minimum sentences for low-level drug offenses. He says “at the top of my list” is dealing with poverty in America.