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Cory Booker Eyes N.H. As Campaign Backstop, And Springboard

Josh Rogers / NHPR

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker was back in New Hampshire today. He spoke at “Politics and Eggs” in Bedford, and he turned an event that’s typically on the staid end of the spectrum into something that at times sounded more like a campaign rally.

But afterward, when Booker spoke to reporters, he also confirmed that his campaign is teetering on the brink of financial viability. NHPR’s Josh Rogers joins me now to discuss that and this moment in the New Hampshire primary.

Ok Josh, so Cory Booker spoke at Politics and Eggs this morning. It was a big crowd. I understand Booker went over well, and says he’s talking steps he thinks he needs to win the primary. But he’s also saying if he doesn’t raise a bunch -- $1.7 million by Monday, he could be out. Could you explain?

Well, the case of Cory Booker in interesting. You could argue that no candidate has worked harder to put himself in a position to do well in New Hampshire. And I’m not saying that still could not happen. We are more than four months from the elections. But so far he’s not had a lot to show for work he’s done here. And here’s Booker himself describing it to reporters today:

“God we have had well over 50 events, multiple visits. I have visited every county in this state. Granite Staters should know, that I am coming here to win, and I am making a massive investment.”

And Booker has invested here. We are talking about multiple campaign offices, a real staff presence, and going back farther, to 2016 forward, Booker, has also showed repeatedly to boost local Democrats with in person appearances. He also provided financial help to local Dems. At one state party event, Democratic Chairman Ray Buckley described Booker as New Hampshire Democrats’ best friend. So Booker has done all the things you are supposed to do to do well here and to be fair he still could.

He has has some name brand support, and has been well-received whenever I’ve seen him, his polling has been middling at best, and that makes it hard to raise money, which makes it hard to rise in the polls. With so many candidates in this race ... that creates problems ... and then there is another factor, one he acknowledged to reporters:

“I don’t believe in this idea that you can’t compete here. You’ve got people in this race who are neighboring states. No, I believe if I put my message, my heart, my gut in front of folks, then people will be able to make a good decision and then we’ll win.”

Booker mentioned people in neighboring states. That would be Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. A lot of coverage of the primary seems to presume the New Hampshire primary will come to Sanders and Warren and maybe Joe Biden. How hard does that make it for folks like Booker?

Well, he mentioned it, and it’s certainly a fact, for him and others in this race. Neighboring state candidates

Credit Josh Rogers / NHPR
Cory Booker and N.H. supporter Jim Demers embrace at the Politics & Eggs event in Bedford.

have historically done well here, and Sanders and Warren have advantage of access and name recognition, and have also being strong orgs here. That’s a reality. I was speaking to some people in the audience at Politics and Eggs, and the crowd at those events tend to be pretty plugged in -- to politics and corporate New Hampshire. There people were both people who have been deeply involved in presidential primary campaigns ... they said a guy like Booker is not out of it, could potentially gain fast should Biden, Sanders or Warren loose steam. But Booker himself told reporters his situation is urgent:

Last week, he said if he could not raise $1.7 million by Monday he might drop out. He says it could still happen:

"We are really proud of what we did here. But we got to a point where we saw, candidate were raising multiples of what we were raising. They have 100% name recognition, and that we were not going to be able to stay in competition with them unless we raised significant money, so I told the truth. If we could not raise $1.7 million dollars by Monday, we’d have to think hard about getting out of this race, and it would likely be that."

So Booker says he did all thing - things you are supposed to do to do well here - and may not be able to compete.

Yes. You know 2016 showed, the traditional way of campaigning here - local endorsements, lots of face to face time - wasn’t crucial to the two guys who carried New Hampshire – Sanders and Trump, and you know it’s still early, and I remain a bit skeptical about Booker dropping out Monday. And one does want to be too reductive ... but Booker’s broader situation is one that many candidates in this race face, folks with national profiles of various stripes – Amy Klobuchar, Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg – all face to some degree. And it could be emblematic of the changing nature of the New Hampshire primary. I mean in Booker you’ve got a guy who set out to run a strong campaign here, with the aptitude to plausibly do it, and by his own account is on the edge of dropping out of the race, four months before voters head to the polls.

Josh has worked at NHPR since 2000.
Peter Biello is the host of All Things Considered and Writers on a New England Stage at New Hampshire Public Radio. He has served as a producer/announcer/host of Weekend Edition Saturday at Vermont Public Radio and as a reporter/host of Morning Edition at WHQR in Wilmington, North Carolina.

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