Sure, I understand why he’s viewed with suspicion by large parts of the populist left. In the past he’s reaped financial support from Wall Street and the pharmaceutical industry. His style of technocratic, market-friendly liberalism, symbolized by the $200 million he raised from various plutocrats to remake Newark’s schools, is very much out of fashion. His proposal for baby bonds — payments of $1,000 for newborns, with further annual payments for low-income children to help them build a nest egg by adulthood — is an excellent way to reduce the racial wealth gap, but it doesn’t take aim at the increasingly overweening power of the ultra-wealthy.
But, as we’re learning, the populist left is not the majority of the Democratic Party. For voters who want a center-left candidate who can rebuild the coalition that carried Barack Obama to victory, Booker seems a natural choice — certainly more so than the stumbling, defensive Biden, or the meritocratic niche candidate Buttigieg.
Booker’s problem may be that he’s too well known by political journalists to be exciting, but too little known by most voters to be a household name. If that’s true, though, he could have a lot of room to grow, because if he starts moving up in the polls, he’ll be a story, and once voters learn his story, he’ll likely rise further.