He might be vegan, but Cory Booker’s launch video promises red meat down the campaign trail. “Together, we will channel our common pain back into our common purpose,” Booker declared as he announced his entry into the Democratic presidential nomination race. Booker timed the announcement for the start of Black History Month, which CNN assumes is a sign that Booker will put his identity front and center.
He might need to get in line for that strategy:
— New Day (@NewDay) February 1, 2019
Booker joins a crowded and growing Democratic field that is already the most diverse in history — with multiple women, one gay candidate, a Latino and, with Booker now in the mix, two black candidates.
His announcement comes nearly a year to the day from the Iowa caucuses and the start of the primary calendar. Booker plans to head to Iowa February 8-9 and then to South Carolina on February 10. He also intends to visit New Hampshire over Presidents Day weekend.
Booker is one of several senators running for president or seriously considering it. At 49, he is the youngest among his Senate colleagues in the race. His age is not all that sets him apart: Booker is unmarried and vegan, two unique qualities among the emerging Democratic field.
Maybe this cycle can be called Identity 2020. That stems from the fact that most of the early entrants in the field are indistinguishable on policy — they’re all running as progressives. Kamala Harris got out over her skis a bit on Medicare for All, but then backtracked a bit.
Booker’s prospects appear less impressive than some of his other Senate colleagues getting into the race. He did better as mayor of Newark, offering a sunny disposition and some sleeve-rolling to take on tasks himself. In the upper chamber, though, Booker has mainly pulled silly stunts like declaring a Spartacus moment for himself during the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation process, revealing memos that were going to be revealed anyway — and were meaningless. Elizabeth Warren has a track record of accomplishment, and Harris has California behind her; Booker mainly has self-promotion. And veganism.
What primary calculations change with Booker in the mix? None. The California primary, which Harris has to ace, comes sixth in line on March 3rd, 2020. New Jersey’s primary takes place in June. Where else will Booker gain strength? New Hampshire? They’ll be looking at Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand ahead of Booker. And maybe even Joe Biden, if the former VP decides to get into the race.
The only foreseeable impact on this is that Booker dilutes the strength of progressives by splitting their vote in the primaries. A smart centrist might see this as an opportunity, but so far everyone hinting at a run in the primaries has been positioning themselves as progressive. In this cycle, though, that smart centrist might have to be a female Asian vegetarian with parents from Iceland and a domestic partner suffering from scurvy just to get past the Democratic Party entry fee.