Cory Booker’s presidential campaign has ended before any votes were cast.
By most accounts, Booker was a great messenger with a unique resume: a skilled orator who once saved a woman from a burning house, an All-American athlete who played football at Stanford, a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, a graduate of Yale Law who rose from city council to become one of just three African Americans in the Senate.
But in the era of Donald Trump — and heightened anxiety among Democratic voters — love wasn’t enough.
“Cory and I have had this conversation. Cory is not gonna change who he is to win an election,” said South Carolina state Rep. John King, who had endorsed Booker. “He believes in love, but it’s a reality that Trump has corrupted the political arena and the minds of many Americans. That you have to be a fighter is what a lot of Democrats are thinking. They want someone who’s gonna be tough and who’s gonna go toe-to-toe with Donald Trump, and while I know Cory would, Cory would do that in love and not at the detriment of embarrassing this country, himself or his family.”
South Carolina state Rep. Annie McDaniel, another Booker endorser, said some supporters thought he was too nice, a side effect of a campaign operating on love.
“But if he had come out acting like a bull in a china shop then they would’ve called him the angry black man,” McDaniel cautioned.
She said Booker got his statesmanlike disposition through his upbringing and continues to prove he has the temperament to be president.
“There were a few occasions where he appeared to come out swinging,” she noted, “but he still did it in a very diplomatic way.”
Booker told supporters “with a full heart” this morning that he was ending his campaign.
The New Jersey Democrat, who will instead run for reelection to his Senate seat, said he longer saw a path to winning the Democratic nomination for president due to a lack of financial resources.
His exit from the 2020 race comes ahead of Tuesday’s debate in Iowa — he failed to meet the polling threshold in every approved survey to participate.
It also comes near the beginning of Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate, which would have taken him off the campaign trail in the crucial early states at a time when he was hoping to surge.
“It was a difficult decision to make, but I got in this race to win, and I’ve always said I wouldn’t continue if there was no longer a path to victory,” Booker said. “Our campaign has reached the point where we need more money to scale up and continue building a campaign that can win — money we don’t have, and money that is harder to raise because I won’t be on the next debate stage and because the urgent business of impeachment will rightly be keeping me in Washington.”
Booker launched his campaign last year on Feb. 1 — the first day of Black History Month — aiming to become the nation’s second black president.
His message emphasized love and unity, and his campaign strategy prioritized organizing on the ground in the early states, particularly in Iowa and South Carolina.
“If someone would’ve told me this time a year ago that Kamala Harris and Cory Booker would’ve not made it to Iowa, I would’ve thought that person was crazy,” said South Carolina state Rep. JA Moore, a former co-chair for Harris’ presidential campaign in the state. “I think if you ask anybody, Cory Booker had the best campaign staff in both Iowa and South Carolina. I think the challenging part was that the resources that he needed to compete this late in the game just weren’t there.”
With so many other well-known candidates in the race, fundraising was consistently an issue for Booker, whose campaign reported raising $6.6 million in the final three months of 2019 while the front-runners boasted sums of more than $20 million each.
Booker had also warned supporters in September that he would be forced to end his campaign unless it raised $1.7 million in 10 days, a gambit that proved successful at the time.
Despite securing a significant number of endorsements across the early states, Booker never caught on with voters — he was mired in the low single digits in public polling.
Booker’s departure could put a spotlight on his large list of endorsements, as the remaining candidates court them in the lead-up to the first four contests, beginning Feb. 3 in Iowa.