Cory Booker’s Iowa Plan to Win 2020 Nomination
“The quote you’ve heard me give often is the Mike Tyson quote, ‘Everybody’s got a plan until I punch them in the face.’ So who knows what’s going to play out in this. I just know this is my authentic way of campaigning all my life,” Booker told me. “The success of my career has always been grassroots-up, and I can’t do it any other way, and I definitely can’t trust the fickle media who’s going to build people up, tear people down. For me, that’s like going from stock trading, day trading which is like the national media cycle, versus building a solid organization on the ground.”
So, I asked Booker, does that make him a mutual fund? “High-yield treasury,” Matt Klapper, his longest serving aide, chipped in from the front seat. Booker wouldn’t quite bite. “We are building an organization [like] real great companies that focus on people, that focus on values, that focus on communications.”
OK, I said, so does he think he’s Mike Tyson (whose actual quote, by the way, is “until they get punched in the mouth”)?
“No, no, no, no, no. I do not want to have another ‘Spartacus’ moment,” Booker told me, referring to his comment during last fall’s Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation hearings that earned him months of mockery, “where I say a quote and people think I was talking about myself.”
This can sound more like Pollyanna 2020 than an actual strategy—Booker giving interviews to insist his campaign is not over, a show for donors so that he scrapes together enough money to keep going. When I asked Booker how his fundraising is going, all he said is that the campaign is meeting its monthly goals. (Those specifics will be tested June 30, the end of the second quarter.)
Booker told me that the race that he compares his 2020 campaign to isn’t either of his runs for Senate, nor his two winning campaigns for mayor of Newark, New Jersey, nor the losing mayoral campaign captured in the Oscar-winning documentary Street Fight. Booker says running for president reminds him of his very first run 20 years ago, for a city council seat in Newark’s central ward.
“This feels eerily like my ‘98 race,” Booker told me. “We knew the only way we were going to win was organizing, getting people to meet me and hear me. If I could get you to come to the common room in one of the projects, and I could get you to hear what I was about, I was going to be able to get your support, if you were not already a partisan, so to speak. And it’s the experience we’re having in Iowa, which is so affirming to me, which is people who come, a large percentage of them, more than my organizers thought would happen, will sign commitment-to-caucus cards.”
Wait, running for president in Iowa was just like running for city council in Newark? His Jersey accent came back out. No, no, he said, “I mean, come awwwn. This is Iowa.”