Commentary Magazine


Topic: Cory Booker

WaPo’s Insanely Racist Attack on Tim Scott

If you’re an up-and-coming politician looking to raise your name recognition, a profile in a national newspaper like the Washington Post is a great way to do so. There are two primary categories of exceptions, however: if you are either a Republican candidate for president or present a threat to the left’s carefully constructed fictions about party identification and identity politics, your profile in the Post is likely to be an excessively dishonest hit job.

It is the latter category into which South Carolina Senator Tim Scott falls. Scott is one of only two black U.S. senators, and the only such Republican. (He was joined in the Senate by the Democrat Cory Booker last year.) As such, the left believes he must be destroyed, and the Post puts in quite an effort in the sadly predictable attempt by the left to delegitimize Scott as a black man. The piece begins cheerily enough, with Scott meeting constituents and doing charity work “undercover”–without telling people he’s their senator. In fact, for a while the article seems downright positive, except for this extraordinarily racist paragraph:

This year, he is poised to be the first black politician to win statewide election in South Carolina since Reconstruction. He’s young (for the Senate), affable and able to blend in where his colleagues would stand out — just try to imagine Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) talking about understanding the misguided allure of drug dealing, or being asked whether he had been assigned mandatory community service.

Get it? Because he’s black, the Post believes he can be easily mistaken for a drug dealer or an ex-con. It’s a mystery as to how such a paragraph could possibly make it to the printer unless it reflected the noxious racial beliefs of every Post editor and proofreader along the way. Unfortunately, however, it’s a sign of things to come.

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If you’re an up-and-coming politician looking to raise your name recognition, a profile in a national newspaper like the Washington Post is a great way to do so. There are two primary categories of exceptions, however: if you are either a Republican candidate for president or present a threat to the left’s carefully constructed fictions about party identification and identity politics, your profile in the Post is likely to be an excessively dishonest hit job.

It is the latter category into which South Carolina Senator Tim Scott falls. Scott is one of only two black U.S. senators, and the only such Republican. (He was joined in the Senate by the Democrat Cory Booker last year.) As such, the left believes he must be destroyed, and the Post puts in quite an effort in the sadly predictable attempt by the left to delegitimize Scott as a black man. The piece begins cheerily enough, with Scott meeting constituents and doing charity work “undercover”–without telling people he’s their senator. In fact, for a while the article seems downright positive, except for this extraordinarily racist paragraph:

This year, he is poised to be the first black politician to win statewide election in South Carolina since Reconstruction. He’s young (for the Senate), affable and able to blend in where his colleagues would stand out — just try to imagine Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) talking about understanding the misguided allure of drug dealing, or being asked whether he had been assigned mandatory community service.

Get it? Because he’s black, the Post believes he can be easily mistaken for a drug dealer or an ex-con. It’s a mystery as to how such a paragraph could possibly make it to the printer unless it reflected the noxious racial beliefs of every Post editor and proofreader along the way. Unfortunately, however, it’s a sign of things to come.

The story begins to really go off the rails when Scott tries to explain why he’s taking this approach to meeting constituents: “This is about becoming credible.” The Post calls this an “odd assertion,” and seeks to make sense of it:

Scott is a steadfast conservative, not looking to alter his opinions so much as convince others that his party has something to offer. While a cynic might call this the move of a con artist, Scott prefers the term “salesman.”

It is at this point that the reader begins to wonder if the reporter responsible for this story and his editors have completely lost their minds. And then it all comes into focus. After goading Scott into criticizing his fellow black conservatives, the Post starts asking others what they think of Scott. Here’s the pro-Scott voice:

Just a few miles away from the Goodwill, there’s the Greenville Museum and Library of Confederate History, a place where the director, Mike Couch, will tell you that slavery was in fact not racist.

“It was a matter of economics, most likely,” Couch says. He walks over to a wall covered with pictures of black Confederate soldiers. “We judge people by character, not skin color.”

Couch, who is white, is a fan of Scott’s.

So speaking for Scott we have a neoconfederate white man who defends slavery. And who do we have on the other side criticizing Scott to, you know, provide balance? See if you can guess where this is going:

“If you call progress electing a person with the pigmentation that he has, who votes against the interest and aspirations of 95 percent of the black people in South Carolina, then I guess that’s progress,” says Rep. James E. Clyburn, a black congressman who serves in the state’s Democratic leadership.

Scott got an F on the NAACP annual scorecard. He voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, he voted to hold Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. in contempt of Congress, opposed the Congressional Black Caucus’s budget proposal and voted to delay funding a settlement between the United States and black farmers who alleged that the federal government refused them loans because of their race.

Hilary Shelton, the NAACP’s Washington bureau director, says it’s great that Scott is reaching out to the community with messages of self-determination and religion, but that it’s not enough.

“He’s not running for preacher,” Shelton says. “We can tell when people are coming to sell snake oil.”

This isn’t to say that Scott can’t find common ground with the other side. He recently teamed up with Democratic Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.), the only other black U.S. senator, on a bill to help create thousands of paid apprenticeships.

“Would I vote for him in South Carolina? No,” Booker says. “But do I think he is sincere of heart on many issues? Absolutely.”

That’s the Post’s evenhanded approach: supporters of Scott are neoconfederates, and opponents are black politicians in both the House and Senate and black community leaders. Which side are you on?

The Post’s attack on Scott is really nothing new, though the overt prejudice of the piece is a bit brazen. It’s part of the left’s standard line that non-liberal black politicians are the wrong kind of African Americans, and their racial identity must then be denied or delegitimized while equating true racial identity with the political platform of the American Democratic Party, thus erasing black Americans’ history and experience because it is inconvenient to liberals’ quest for political power.

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The Christie-Booker Expectations Game

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie took some heat from conservatives earlier this year for his decision to schedule the special Senate election for the late Frank Lautenberg’s seat a few weeks earlier than the gubernatorial election. It was a pragmatic move for Christie: Cory Booker was going to be the Democratic Senate candidate and probably sail to victory. For Christie, having his own reelection separate from Booker’s Senate election would ensure that any extra turnout generated by Booker’s campaign would not also be casting a vote that same day (possibly) against Christie.

This put Republicans vying for Lautenberg’s seat against Booker at a disadvantage, but no one thought it would be close enough to matter either way. In contrast, because New Jersey is a solid blue state, Christie would want to take no chances. But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum. Booker’s lead in the polls has slipped enough to worry his supporters and inspire Michael Bloomberg to dump buckets of money into Booker’s campaign coffers, even while Booker’s opponent, former Bogota mayor Steve Lonegan, seemed to be left by his party to fend for himself.

The whole election season has thus been somewhat confusing for outsiders. But anyone seeking to understand why Christie has soared while Booker has tumbled–in New Jersey of all places–could do worse than watch this brief clip from last night’s gubernatorial debate between Christie and his Democratic opponent, State Senator Barbara Buono:

                

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New Jersey Governor Chris Christie took some heat from conservatives earlier this year for his decision to schedule the special Senate election for the late Frank Lautenberg’s seat a few weeks earlier than the gubernatorial election. It was a pragmatic move for Christie: Cory Booker was going to be the Democratic Senate candidate and probably sail to victory. For Christie, having his own reelection separate from Booker’s Senate election would ensure that any extra turnout generated by Booker’s campaign would not also be casting a vote that same day (possibly) against Christie.

This put Republicans vying for Lautenberg’s seat against Booker at a disadvantage, but no one thought it would be close enough to matter either way. In contrast, because New Jersey is a solid blue state, Christie would want to take no chances. But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum. Booker’s lead in the polls has slipped enough to worry his supporters and inspire Michael Bloomberg to dump buckets of money into Booker’s campaign coffers, even while Booker’s opponent, former Bogota mayor Steve Lonegan, seemed to be left by his party to fend for himself.

The whole election season has thus been somewhat confusing for outsiders. But anyone seeking to understand why Christie has soared while Booker has tumbled–in New Jersey of all places–could do worse than watch this brief clip from last night’s gubernatorial debate between Christie and his Democratic opponent, State Senator Barbara Buono:

                

Christie has natural political skills, sharpened by being a conservative in a blue state. Though Booker is personable, he is struggling to make his case to a sympathetic electorate, as the New York Times explained in its story about Bloomberg’s rescue mission:

But the Senate campaign Mr. Booker, a Democrat, is running in New Jersey — at times sputtering, unfocused and entangled in seemingly frivolous skirmishes over Twitter messages involving a stripper — has unnerved his supporters, who thought that a robust and unblemished victory over his Republican opponent, Steve Lonegan, would catapult him onto the national stage. …

Mr. Booker’s bumpy campaign and shrinking lead in the polls are all the more unsettling to Democratic Party officials because Mr. Lonegan is a political anomaly in the blue-hued state: a Tea Party conservative who describes himself as a “radical,” opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest, cheers the current shutdown of the federal government and has relied on polarizing right-wing figures like Sarah Palin and Rick Perry as campaign surrogates.

Mr. Lonegan, despite his ideological alignment, appears to have tapped into lingering doubts about whether Mr. Booker can translate his outsize, self-promotional persona, so popular with the Democratic base, into the rigors of a highly disciplined campaign.

This is familiar territory; the press last year began wondering aloud whether Booker had enough substance for the national stage, and they apparently never got a satisfactory answer. It should be noted that Booker is still likely to win, and by a healthy margin: a double-digit victory is no nail-biter. But he’s losing the expectations game. “This should be a 20-point lead and not anything less than that,” Monmouth University pollster Patrick Murray told the Times.

Democrats were unhappy when Booker decided not to challenge Christie and instead run for Senate, thereby leaving the Democrats without a formidable gubernatorial candidate and with a glut of candidates for a Senate seat any of them would win. He also ended the Senate hopes (for now) of Representative Frank Pallone, who was Lautenberg’s chosen successor (not that that entitles him to the seat).

But those same Democrats might be more understanding now. Were Booker to stumble and lose to Christie, his career would be in trouble and New Jersey Democrats would lose a popular voice on chummy Sunday morning roundtables. Instead, he will join New Jersey’s senior senator, Bob Menendez, on those roundtables. The two will make quite a pair for New Jersey’s Democratic representation in the media; Booker is charismatic while Menendez is bland, but Menendez possesses actual influence (he is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee) while Booker will give the affectation of such, which to Beltway media is basically the same thing.

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Cory Booker and the “Celebrity” Charge

The evergreen electoral strategy in which an underdog candidate tries to turn his opponent’s greatest strength into a weakness is high risk and high reward. The reward is obvious enough, if successful. But the risk is that the effort will simply remind the public why they liked the candidate in the first place. Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s opponents in the Democratic Senate primary in New Jersey are ready to take that chance.

A super-PAC called the American Commitment Action Fund has released a tough ad echoing criticism Booker has heard before: his commitment to a national profile has come at the expense of the city he is supposed to be governing. But recent polling suggests the ad might end up reinforcing Booker’s appeal among Democratic primary voters. The ad itself, running nearly two minutes, casts Booker as an absentee mayor who consolidates power in his hands while weakening the city government around him:

 

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The evergreen electoral strategy in which an underdog candidate tries to turn his opponent’s greatest strength into a weakness is high risk and high reward. The reward is obvious enough, if successful. But the risk is that the effort will simply remind the public why they liked the candidate in the first place. Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s opponents in the Democratic Senate primary in New Jersey are ready to take that chance.

A super-PAC called the American Commitment Action Fund has released a tough ad echoing criticism Booker has heard before: his commitment to a national profile has come at the expense of the city he is supposed to be governing. But recent polling suggests the ad might end up reinforcing Booker’s appeal among Democratic primary voters. The ad itself, running nearly two minutes, casts Booker as an absentee mayor who consolidates power in his hands while weakening the city government around him:

 

           

As I wrote last year, one estimate found Booker spending one out of every five days out of state, and the line in the ad that to see Booker you’d have to turn on Meet the Press will surely resonate with some voters. And it’s understandable that his opponents would seek to turn Booker’s major advantage in a brief primary season–his national profile–into a weakness. But the latest Monmouth University poll of likely Democratic primary voters has some bad news for his rivals, Congressmen Frank Pallone and Rush Holt.

To say Booker is polling well would be an understatement. He gets 49 percent of the vote overall, and his nearest competitor is Pallone with 12 percent. And he may just be turning the tables on his opponents, neutralizing their natural advantages while retaining his own:

Among four factors offered in the poll, experience to get things done in Washington was most often named as the most important: 34 percent of primary voters said so. Second most important was being true to core Democratic values, at 22 percent.

Holt and Pallone are Washington veterans and have claimed to be the “true” Democratic progressives in the race. But among voters who labeled experience as the most important factor, Booker won 42 percent support, compared with 15 percent for Pallone, 10 percent for Holt, and 4 percent for Oliver.

Last month, I mentioned the reason Booker would benefit from having Holt in the race. Pallone was already planning to run, having been Lautenberg’s preferred successor anyway. But the fact that Holt threw his hat in the ring only further solidified Booker’s advantage. Holt and Pallone represent adjacent House districts. As such, they will be competing for the same voter base. Yet the Monmouth poll makes clear that even without Holt in the race, Pallone couldn’t take those voters for granted:

Even in Central New Jersey, where Pallone and Holt have their political bases, Booker got 39 percent of the likely primary vote, compared with 19 percent for Pallone and 16 percent for Holt.

That prompted a note of incredulity from Monmouth’s polling director Patrick Murray: “Cory Booker’s lead appears to be impregnable. There is very little in the poll that shows a path for the other candidates to overtake him.” Murray then revealed why the super-PAC ad may redound to Booker’s benefit:

While Booker has often chafed at the “celebrity” label his opponents have tried to slap on him, his overwhelming name recognition is a key factor in his polling and fund-raising lead.

“At the end of the day, New Jersey Democrats would be satisfied with any of these candidates as their nominee for U.S. Senate. They are simply going for the one they feel they know best,” Murray said.

That about sums it up: N.J. Democrats really don’t see much difference between the candidates, but Booker is famous and popular. In addition, Booker’s national profile may convince some N.J. Democrats that his election could end up being a boon to the state’s influence in a way electing Pallone or Holt would not, since Booker would not suffer the anonymity common to freshman senators who don’t have the seniority (or immediate presidential aspirations) they would usually need to receive invitations to the Sunday morning talk shows.

The primary is three weeks away, and that is not much time to make up this ground. There is plenty of legitimate criticism of Booker’s use of social media to enable his reputation to reach heights nationally that it doesn’t locally. (Though it would certainly be unfair to claim that his Twitter activity is a complete waste of time; in the age of big government, there is something to be said for a responsive executive who is easy to contact and joyfully engages his constituents.) But polling shows that name recognition is the surest way to win a primary that voters see as mostly ideologically meaningless. Casting Booker as a celebrity is unlikely to deter those voters.

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Booker Gets a Boost in Quest for Senate

Chris Christie and Newark Mayor Cory Booker make light of their friendly competition for the media spotlight, but the rivalry was never too convincing because their interests have so often aligned. As rising stars in opposing parties forced to share the stage in New Jersey, they could be expected to clash often. But the two have found common ground on education, economic issues, and crime policy, and most importantly have an interest in avoiding having to run against each other.

And when Senator Frank Lautenberg passed away this week, opening up a seat Booker was planning to run for next year, their interests aligned once again. New Jersey election law seemed to allow for a special election to fill this seat either this year or next. Calling the election for 2014 would have allowed Christie to avoid running alongside another high-profile candidate during his reelection campaign and would give the Republican Party a head start at holding the seat next year. That would have been best for Booker as well, since he doesn’t have a statewide campaign apparatus in place and would like to have the extra year to raise money. It would also give him a foil in the Republican senator he’d be running against, which would likely be an easier target than Christie.

But as Jonathan alluded to yesterday, Democrats would have challenged postponing the election until 2014 and, given the liberal state courts, would almost certainly have won. That would have been a setback for Christie, so he announced he was scheduling the special election for this fall. He had the option of setting the election to coincide with his own or to take place earlier. Christie doesn’t want to run on the same day that Booker is on the ballot, and once again this was also preferable for Booker, who didn’t want to risk facing a candidate who could run on Christie’s coattails.

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Chris Christie and Newark Mayor Cory Booker make light of their friendly competition for the media spotlight, but the rivalry was never too convincing because their interests have so often aligned. As rising stars in opposing parties forced to share the stage in New Jersey, they could be expected to clash often. But the two have found common ground on education, economic issues, and crime policy, and most importantly have an interest in avoiding having to run against each other.

And when Senator Frank Lautenberg passed away this week, opening up a seat Booker was planning to run for next year, their interests aligned once again. New Jersey election law seemed to allow for a special election to fill this seat either this year or next. Calling the election for 2014 would have allowed Christie to avoid running alongside another high-profile candidate during his reelection campaign and would give the Republican Party a head start at holding the seat next year. That would have been best for Booker as well, since he doesn’t have a statewide campaign apparatus in place and would like to have the extra year to raise money. It would also give him a foil in the Republican senator he’d be running against, which would likely be an easier target than Christie.

But as Jonathan alluded to yesterday, Democrats would have challenged postponing the election until 2014 and, given the liberal state courts, would almost certainly have won. That would have been a setback for Christie, so he announced he was scheduling the special election for this fall. He had the option of setting the election to coincide with his own or to take place earlier. Christie doesn’t want to run on the same day that Booker is on the ballot, and once again this was also preferable for Booker, who didn’t want to risk facing a candidate who could run on Christie’s coattails.

And Booker received some more good news: Democratic Representative Rush Holt will run for the seat in this summer’s primary. That helps Booker because the primary was set to pit Booker against Representative Frank Pallone, a central-Jersey congressman who was long considered the rightful successor to Lautenberg–plans that were upended when Booker decided he didn’t want to challenge Christie for governor and had to find another seat to run for in the meantime.

Although Booker would still have been considered the favorite against Pallone, the contest wasn’t too lopsided. Booker has higher name recognition, Pallone a war chest and active campaign infrastructure. Having the election next year would have given Booker the opportunity to match or even surpass Pallone’s fundraising, but it would also have given Pallone a year to build up his name recognition statewide. Pallone also might have started advertising earlier than Booker, and at least had the chance to set the tempo of the campaign.

But the rules of the special election don’t require House members to resign their seats to run, so Holt sees no risk in throwing his name in the hat. Democratic Congressman Rob Andrews was reportedly considering running as well, but Maggie Haberman reports that he is out. Pallone and Holt represent adjoining districts, which means they share representation of several New Jersey counties (and even one town, as of the last redistricting). It’s fair to say they will be competing for many of the same voters who would otherwise be part of their electoral base in a statewide election, and will have to spend more time and resources fighting for voters close to home, leaving fewer resources available to expand their campaign presence across the state.

As for Christie, he has not yet made any announcements about a possible interim senator, but the calculus hasn’t changed much from Monday. If not for his age (78), popular former governor Tom Kean Sr. would be an attractive pick but it’s unlikely he would want to run to keep the seat, leaving his son, Tom Kean Jr., a choice that would rankle few feathers and may give the GOP a fighting chance at keeping the seat (though it would be an uphill battle against Booker). The fact that the interim appointment would only be for a few months and would have to be defended right away will probably convince some other possible contenders (such as Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno) to take a pass on the seat.

All that means Booker will have less competition on the GOP side and more competition on the Democratic side, both of which should be expected to help his already favorable chances of succeeding Lautenberg.

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N.J. Democrats’ Booker-Induced Chaos

For New Jersey Republicans, one of the disappointing aspects of Chris Christie’s first term as governor has been the lack of intrastate coattails. Christie has notched several impressive policy victories for Republicans, but the state GOP has been unable to turn those victories into success at the ballot box in either house of the state legislature, let alone a Senate challenge to Bob Menendez. That makes Christie’s policy success all the more impressive: unlike in Michigan and Wisconsin, Christie’s victories over the public sector unions came without a Republican legislature.

Christie’s one-man conservative show in New Jersey, along with Christie’s high approval rating, is sowing more internal discord within the state’s Democratic Party–and at the highest level yet. Christie’s popularity after his handling of the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy was enough to convince rising star Cory Booker not to challenge Christie for the governor’s office later this year. But that means that Booker, whose social-media heavy act in Newark is beginning to wear thin, needs something else to do. So he announced that he’s exploring a run for the Senate seat currently occupied by Frank Lautenberg. The latter’s term is up in 2014, and Lautenberg is thought to be leaning toward retirement. But he hasn’t announced that yet, and doesn’t seem to be at all pleased by Booker’s decision to try and push him out the door. And there’s another problem: if Lautenberg were to step down, it was widely expected that his chosen successor would be Frank Pallone, a congressman from central New Jersey who has been laying the groundwork for a Senate run.

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For New Jersey Republicans, one of the disappointing aspects of Chris Christie’s first term as governor has been the lack of intrastate coattails. Christie has notched several impressive policy victories for Republicans, but the state GOP has been unable to turn those victories into success at the ballot box in either house of the state legislature, let alone a Senate challenge to Bob Menendez. That makes Christie’s policy success all the more impressive: unlike in Michigan and Wisconsin, Christie’s victories over the public sector unions came without a Republican legislature.

Christie’s one-man conservative show in New Jersey, along with Christie’s high approval rating, is sowing more internal discord within the state’s Democratic Party–and at the highest level yet. Christie’s popularity after his handling of the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy was enough to convince rising star Cory Booker not to challenge Christie for the governor’s office later this year. But that means that Booker, whose social-media heavy act in Newark is beginning to wear thin, needs something else to do. So he announced that he’s exploring a run for the Senate seat currently occupied by Frank Lautenberg. The latter’s term is up in 2014, and Lautenberg is thought to be leaning toward retirement. But he hasn’t announced that yet, and doesn’t seem to be at all pleased by Booker’s decision to try and push him out the door. And there’s another problem: if Lautenberg were to step down, it was widely expected that his chosen successor would be Frank Pallone, a congressman from central New Jersey who has been laying the groundwork for a Senate run.

But now Booker appears ready to run whether Lautenberg vacates the seat or not. And that may bring on a third problem (Booker’s quite the trouble maker): whereas Pallone would not have considered challenging Lautenberg in a primary, if Booker challenges Lautenberg then Pallone will almost surely have to throw his hat in the ring, since a three-way primary race might be his only shot to beat Booker.

Thus Booker’s announcement may spur a primary free-for-all that stands a good chance of flattening Lautenberg to bring his career to a rather ignominious end. So it’s no surprise to read this:

Booker said Monday that he still hopes to talk to Lautenberg.

“We’ve reached out to him a number of times,” said Booker, whose second term as mayor ends in 2014. “In fact, I had a plane trip going down to meet with him, but unfortunately with a lot of the challenges going down in Washington, he had to cancel the meeting.”

There is some (recent) history here. Lautenberg was aware of a possible Booker challenge last year, and then came Booker’s criticism of President Obama’s attacks on Mitt Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital, which Booker called “nauseating.” Lautenberg pounced:

“It’s a terrible blow, in my view, for President Obama,” he said. He likened the remark to “sabotage” and said Booker needs to do more to rectify his mistake.

Booker has tried several times since Sunday to walk back the remarks. On “The Rachel Maddow Show” on Monday night, he expressed anger at Republicans who have turned his statement into campaign fodder.

As for a possible primary run against Booker in 2014, Lautenberg said “he’s welcome to do it” but that his remarks did him great damage.

“Now we have a different record,” said a smiling Lautenberg, who is considering seeking another term.

If Booker does indeed run in 2014, Pallone’s best chance is probably if Lautenberg runs as well, thereby diluting some of Booker’s North Jersey support. If Lautenberg steps down and Booker and Pallone vie for the seat, Booker would most likely be the favorite, though it’s early to gauge just how much headway Pallone has been able to make with county party chairs behind the scenes. Nonetheless, while state Republicans may not be gaining at the ballot box, they have to be enjoying the fact that their current governor is a Republican with such high approval ratings that the state’s top Democratic politicians are at each other’s throats just to avoid challenging Christie.

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The Paths of Christie and Booker Diverge

Newark Mayor Cory Booker has all but confirmed that he is planning to replace Frank Lautenberg in the Senate in 2014 rather than challenge Governor Chris Christie next year. Though many have suspected Booker would take this route all along, he seemed to be sending up a trial balloon in the last couple of months to gauge his chances against Christie. The verdict was nearly unanimous: Booker was far weaker than he thought, and Christie was far stronger than anyone had expected.

On Christie’s side, there is no question now that his embrace of President Obama during the fallout and recovery from Hurricane Sandy was a boon to his approval numbers in the state. It rankled Republicans around the country, but it rallied New Jerseyans. It also earned him plaudits from a rare corner for a conservative: the entertainment industry. Christie got a shoutout from his hero, Bruce Springsteen, and from Steven Spielberg, who called Christie his new hero. In the latest Fairleigh Dickinson poll, even a majority of registered Democrats approved of Christie. He capped off his good run with an endorsement from a private-sector union that endorsed Christie’s Democratic opponent in 2009, Jon Corzine.

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Newark Mayor Cory Booker has all but confirmed that he is planning to replace Frank Lautenberg in the Senate in 2014 rather than challenge Governor Chris Christie next year. Though many have suspected Booker would take this route all along, he seemed to be sending up a trial balloon in the last couple of months to gauge his chances against Christie. The verdict was nearly unanimous: Booker was far weaker than he thought, and Christie was far stronger than anyone had expected.

On Christie’s side, there is no question now that his embrace of President Obama during the fallout and recovery from Hurricane Sandy was a boon to his approval numbers in the state. It rankled Republicans around the country, but it rallied New Jerseyans. It also earned him plaudits from a rare corner for a conservative: the entertainment industry. Christie got a shoutout from his hero, Bruce Springsteen, and from Steven Spielberg, who called Christie his new hero. In the latest Fairleigh Dickinson poll, even a majority of registered Democrats approved of Christie. He capped off his good run with an endorsement from a private-sector union that endorsed Christie’s Democratic opponent in 2009, Jon Corzine.

Things have gone in the other direction for Booker. Last month I wrote about Booker’s addiction to Twitter and self-promotion and how it was starting diminish the seriousness of his work in Newark. Bethany followed up with a post about the silliness of Booker’s food stamp challenge, which demonstrated that Booker both did not understand the nature of the food stamp program and was allowing his competitive nature to get the better of him by daring his social media antagonists to do things he himself had proclaimed unhealthy or dangerous.

After that, other publications, including the New York Times, wrote their own (devastating) versions of the story. The upshot was that political observers believed, in the words of the Times, that Booker “is better suited to speechmaking in Washington than to governing a state.” And those were the Democrats, according to the Times.

For Booker, the Senate is not a bad consolation prize. He can gain valuable experience without having to fight too hard for his seat. (Just ask Bob Menendez how difficult it is for a Democrat to be dislodged from either of those seats.) From there, Booker can run for governor at a later time if he chooses, or he can remain in the Senate. Either way, it will raise his national profile and stop him from getting caught up in the kind of political stunts he’s been engaging in lately.

For Christie, the future is a bit tougher to predict. No Republican has an easy reelection campaign in New Jersey, no matter how strong Christie’s post-Sandy poll numbers–which even he acknowledged will come back down to earth–have looked. And if he does intend to run for president in 2016, he may find Republican primary voters still interested in punishing him for his embrace of Obama–especially if there’s a crowded field of conservatives in the race. Over at the Hill, Christian Heinze notes that Christie’s favorability ratings among Republicans and Democrats are fairly close, but others, like Marco Rubio and Bobby Jindal, earn high marks from Republicans without those suspicious-looking Democratic approval numbers to go along with them:

That’s not to say there should be a huge gap for a candidate, but ever since his Obama snuggle, Christie has seen a dip in his favorable ratings with Republicans, and drifting into McCain-land, circa 2000, isn’t going to be helpful for him in a ’16 primary — no matter how the press would lionize him.

Yes, first things first — he needs to win his reelection. But at some point, he’s going to have to start rubbing Spielberg the wrong way to get the GOP base back in his pocket.

Christie would have plenty of time and plenty of ammunition with which to do so. Reining in the public-sector unions, the way Christie has, is more impressive in New Jersey than in states with GOP-majority legislatures like Wisconsin and Michigan. Christie’s a budget-balancing tax cutter, which will make budget hawks happy. And since he is a social conservative, he will not have the baggage that other northeastern Republicans, like Mitt Romney, are often saddled with in GOP primary contests.

And there’s one more argument he can make. Democrats have a voter registration advantage of over 700,000 in New Jersey, yet the Democrats’ best and brightest still don’t want to run against him. Just imagine, Christie might say, what he could do in a fair fight.

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The Problem with Food Stamp Challenges

With several proposed cuts to SNAP, better known as food stamps, a new fad has emerged among social activists: food stamp challenges. Among the most notable challengers is Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who will begin the challenge on December 4 and is already hyping, on Twitter of course, his plan to budget a week’s food allowance according to what those on food stamps are able to spend on the program. 

Booker and other challengers don’t seem to realize what SNAP actually stands for: Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program. The word supplemental is a crucial descriptor for the program, which was never meant to be the sole provider of nutrition for its enrollees. There are other ways fill the gaps between SNAP and full nutrition, including free lunch programs at schools and food banks and kitchens. Nutritional programs are not the only way for those on food stamps to feed their families, however. For those physically unable to work, there is the option of obtaining assistance through Social Security disability. For those who are able to work, there is no reason to completely rely on governmental assistance programs to provide for their families. 

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With several proposed cuts to SNAP, better known as food stamps, a new fad has emerged among social activists: food stamp challenges. Among the most notable challengers is Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who will begin the challenge on December 4 and is already hyping, on Twitter of course, his plan to budget a week’s food allowance according to what those on food stamps are able to spend on the program. 

Booker and other challengers don’t seem to realize what SNAP actually stands for: Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program. The word supplemental is a crucial descriptor for the program, which was never meant to be the sole provider of nutrition for its enrollees. There are other ways fill the gaps between SNAP and full nutrition, including free lunch programs at schools and food banks and kitchens. Nutritional programs are not the only way for those on food stamps to feed their families, however. For those physically unable to work, there is the option of obtaining assistance through Social Security disability. For those who are able to work, there is no reason to completely rely on governmental assistance programs to provide for their families. 

What Booker and others are doing with these food stamps challenges is attempting to have the supplemental program provide the entirety of their nutritional needs, something the program was never designed to do, nor should it. By participating in these challenges public figures like Booker are making martyrs out of those who rely on an assistance program funded by our tax dollars. While receiving food stamps was once a shameful and embarrassing act, participants are now provided with “EBT” cards which can be quietly swiped into credit card machines at grocery stores and convenience shops. What Booker and other socially conscious activists should be applauding is not those who live on food stamps, but instead those who work their way off of them.

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Christie’s Ratings May Discourage Booker

The New Jersey governor’s race looked to be the only highlight of an otherwise barren slate of election contests in 2013. Incumbent Chris Christie is a GOP and YouTube star, but he had made a lot of enemies in his four years in office. More importantly, the Democrats have their own rising superstar in Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who seemed likely to be able to give Christie a stiff challenge. But after the latest round of polling of Garden State voters, Booker may be thinking that it might be smarter to wait another year and try for a Senate seat.

With the governor’s efforts to help the state recover from Hurricane Sandy and his controversial embrace of President Obama fresh in their minds, the latest Quinnipiac University poll shows Christie with an astonishing 72 percent approval rating. The numbers are more convincing when you break them down, as even Democrats support the governor’s performance by a 52-39 percent margin. Christie is given the thumbs-up from every demographic group including independents (77 percent), women (70 percent), blacks (55 percent) and Hispanics (66 percent).

While these numbers are bound to come down, any expectation that Christie’s union foes will be able to take their revenge on him this year must be considered unlikely. That means Booker may decide that a gubernatorial run would be a mistake that could derail a seemingly bright political future.

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The New Jersey governor’s race looked to be the only highlight of an otherwise barren slate of election contests in 2013. Incumbent Chris Christie is a GOP and YouTube star, but he had made a lot of enemies in his four years in office. More importantly, the Democrats have their own rising superstar in Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who seemed likely to be able to give Christie a stiff challenge. But after the latest round of polling of Garden State voters, Booker may be thinking that it might be smarter to wait another year and try for a Senate seat.

With the governor’s efforts to help the state recover from Hurricane Sandy and his controversial embrace of President Obama fresh in their minds, the latest Quinnipiac University poll shows Christie with an astonishing 72 percent approval rating. The numbers are more convincing when you break them down, as even Democrats support the governor’s performance by a 52-39 percent margin. Christie is given the thumbs-up from every demographic group including independents (77 percent), women (70 percent), blacks (55 percent) and Hispanics (66 percent).

While these numbers are bound to come down, any expectation that Christie’s union foes will be able to take their revenge on him this year must be considered unlikely. That means Booker may decide that a gubernatorial run would be a mistake that could derail a seemingly bright political future.

Democrats had hoped that once the governor’s initial successes in the legislature were in the past, they would be able to turn Christie’s tough-guy persona into a weakness rather than strength. But that hasn’t happened, as his abrasive governing style has won more cheers than jeers.

Christie’s obvious interest in the 2016 Republican presidential nomination might also have been a drawback for voters, but that also doesn’t seem to be hurting him. Given that even the start of a presidential run wouldn’t come until he was more than a year into his second term, it’s hard to argue that Christie is using Trenton as a stepping stone to the White House.

More important, that embrace of Obama that so rankled Republicans around the nation is playing very well in this very blue state. Indeed, the bitter criticism he has taken for his fulsome praise of the president in the last week of the 2012 campaign actually helps Christie’s chances to be re-elected even if it diminishes his appeal among Republicans. Though it can be argued that Christie’s response to the federal help that arrived in the wake of the hurricane was emotional rather than calculated, his gesture was exactly what he needed to establish himself in the eyes of New Jersey voters as a man who rose above politics in a crisis.

Though Booker may hanker after the governor’s seat, this ought to alert him to the fact that 2013 may not be a very good year for New Jersey Democrats, especially the Democrat who will be facing Christie. In 2014, Senator Frank Lautenberg will turn 90 and unless he decides to try to challenge Strom Thurmond’s age record, there is a good chance he will retire. Though the line of Democrats hoping to win what should be a safe seat will be long, Booker would be at the head of the list. Though he strikes me as the sort of person who would rather run something than spend his life in a talking shop like the Senate, that would seem to be the wiser choice for Booker right now.

Whether Christie can parlay a triumph next year into a credible presidential run is a question for another day. But whatever Booker’s decision turns out to be, Christie must be considered a solid favorite to be re-elected.

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Cory Booker and the Problem with Social Media-Savvy Politicking

As Jonathan wrote earlier, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s reputation among Republicans in his home state has begun to diverge from his reputation among Republicans elsewhere. Nationally, Republicans are bitter about Christie’s embrace of President Obama in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which also happened to be in the last week of the presidential election campaign. But there is another popular New Jersey politician who is also perceived differently at home than on a national level: Newark Mayor Cory Booker.

Whether it’s pursuing unpopular policies by having the courts, rather than voters, on his side, or grumblings that Booker’s hyperactive Twitter feed is a strategy to cover for the fact that he spends as much as one in every five days out of his state, Booker’s rock-star status among national media occasionally obscures his less sainted image in Newark. Like Christie, that has a lot to do with the difficulty of impressing a national constituency and a local one at the same time. Unlike Christie, however, in Booker’s case it reveals a politician who sometimes seems more interested in national stardom than local governance.

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As Jonathan wrote earlier, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s reputation among Republicans in his home state has begun to diverge from his reputation among Republicans elsewhere. Nationally, Republicans are bitter about Christie’s embrace of President Obama in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which also happened to be in the last week of the presidential election campaign. But there is another popular New Jersey politician who is also perceived differently at home than on a national level: Newark Mayor Cory Booker.

Whether it’s pursuing unpopular policies by having the courts, rather than voters, on his side, or grumblings that Booker’s hyperactive Twitter feed is a strategy to cover for the fact that he spends as much as one in every five days out of his state, Booker’s rock-star status among national media occasionally obscures his less sainted image in Newark. Like Christie, that has a lot to do with the difficulty of impressing a national constituency and a local one at the same time. Unlike Christie, however, in Booker’s case it reveals a politician who sometimes seems more interested in national stardom than local governance.

Booker’s Twitter feed isn’t the only reason for his national fame. He’s a good-humored, well spoken politician willing to tackle persistent, endemic problems and break from the city’s corrupt past. His mastery of social media has also been evidence of a City Hall with a new dedication to responsiveness and good governance.

But it also often descends into gimmickry and hectoring, as it did yesterday. As New York magazine reports:

Cory Booker’s interactions with the denizens of Twitter started out pretty typically on Sunday. First, he told a man whose transgender friends are nervous about moving to Newark that he’d be happy to give them a call, and by the evening he was offering to help a student staying up all night to write a report about him. However, things grew more contentious when he tweeted a bit of ancient Greek wisdom, courtesy of Plutarch: “An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics.” Booker was accused of plotting to redistribute wealth and told “nutrition is not a responsibility of the government.” Since simply debating the merits of providing food assistance to impoverished Americans doesn’t fit into Booker’s ridiculously hands-on approach to governing, by the end of the night he’d challenged the Twitter user to a contest in which they’d both try to live off of food stamps for a week.

A challenge to live off of food stamps for a week seems like a great way to gain attention for a cause–until you realize that there’s nothing Booker is really advocating here except more government involvement, this time because the mayor doesn’t believe kids are eating a wholesome breakfast before school. Is he trying to show that you can’t live comfortably on food stamps? I would think that’s a no-brainer; is the purpose of food stamps to give recipients a middle-class living standard?

Is it Booker’s contention that more wealth redistribution is necessary for parents to feed their children healthier food? How does Booker know what parents spend their money on now, and how does he know how they’ll reallocate it if they get a bit more of it?

An energetic, responsive government is supposed to be the attractive alternative to Michael Bloomberg’s nanny state governance next door. At this point, both big-city mayors are advocating for liberal policies and aggressive and invasive paternalism, but the difference is that Bloomberg isn’t hounding his citizens on Twitter, shaming them for daring to dispute the wisdom of a meddlesome government with designs on more of the private sector’s cash.

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Obama Surrogates Need Better Material

Last year, the New York Times ran a story on the phenomenon of good actors taking silly roles in bad movies. Fans generally assume the actors take those roles for the paycheck, but the story offered a different defense: it can actually help prove the skill of the actor: “The more preposterous the situation, the more impressive the feat of seeming to take it utterly seriously. There are other measures of excellence of course — emotional subtlety, psychological acuity, wit — but this kind of unwavering, fanatical commitment is surely a sign of greatness.”

Alas, despite his gift for triangulation and spin and near cameo in “The Hangover 2,” former President Bill Clinton fails this test. Handed a script too far from reality by the Obama campaign, Clinton just couldn’t go through with it. So he told CNN that Mitt Romney’s business career was “sterling,” that the folks at Bain do good work, and that Romney clearly “crosses the qualification threshold.” Then yesterday he declared his support for extending the Bush tax cuts (though he later said he meant only some of the Bush tax cuts). Some roles are just too preposterous–even for Bill Clinton.

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Last year, the New York Times ran a story on the phenomenon of good actors taking silly roles in bad movies. Fans generally assume the actors take those roles for the paycheck, but the story offered a different defense: it can actually help prove the skill of the actor: “The more preposterous the situation, the more impressive the feat of seeming to take it utterly seriously. There are other measures of excellence of course — emotional subtlety, psychological acuity, wit — but this kind of unwavering, fanatical commitment is surely a sign of greatness.”

Alas, despite his gift for triangulation and spin and near cameo in “The Hangover 2,” former President Bill Clinton fails this test. Handed a script too far from reality by the Obama campaign, Clinton just couldn’t go through with it. So he told CNN that Mitt Romney’s business career was “sterling,” that the folks at Bain do good work, and that Romney clearly “crosses the qualification threshold.” Then yesterday he declared his support for extending the Bush tax cuts (though he later said he meant only some of the Bush tax cuts). Some roles are just too preposterous–even for Bill Clinton.

But Clinton isn’t the exception in the case of the Obama campaign’s attacks on Romney’s career. He is only the most high-profile Obama surrogate to improvise on the set. This morning, Larry Summers, who worked for both Clinton and Obama, also threw his (unqualified, as of yet) support for extending the tax cuts. After Cory Booker couldn’t go through with the Bain attacks either, and subsequently was asked by the Obama campaign to record the infamous “hostage video,” the Obama campaign sent out Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, Romney’s successor, to sully his predecessor’s reputation as an executive. Patrick couldn’t do it either, singing Bain’s praises and admitting that Romney left the state with low unemployment.

The popular theory about Clinton’s behavior is that he doesn’t want Obama to win a second term. That might be the case, but I doubt that’s true of Booker, Patrick, or Summers. Other explanations seem closer to the mark: the sitting politicians, like Booker and Patrick, don’t want to burn bridges with Wall Street, and Summers, unlike his former boss, knows a thing or two about economics, and therefore cannot bring himself to attach his own name to the Obama campaign’s economic illiteracy.

In other words, the script is the problem. This may be “silly season,” but the Obama campaign’s rhetoric is too silly even for his allies.

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Clinton’s Motivation for Killing Bain Attack

To be fair, Cory Booker and Deval Patrick were really the ones who killed Obama’s Bain Capital strategy. But last night on CNN, Bill Clinton basically dipped it in cement and threw it in the East River:

Bill Clinton, in an appearance on CNN last night, said that Mitt Romney has a “sterling business career” and that the campaign shouldn’t be about what kind of work Romney did.

“I don’t think we ought to get into the position where we say this is bad work; this is good work,” Clinton said, adding: “There’s no question that, in terms of getting up, going to the office, and basically performing the essential functions of the office, a man who’s been governor and had a sterling business career crosses the qualification threshold.”

Clinton urged the Obama campaign to instead focus on contrasting its vision for the country with Romney’s. His comments came at the tail end of a day in which another Obama surrogate, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D), called Bain a “a perfectly fine company.”

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To be fair, Cory Booker and Deval Patrick were really the ones who killed Obama’s Bain Capital strategy. But last night on CNN, Bill Clinton basically dipped it in cement and threw it in the East River:

Bill Clinton, in an appearance on CNN last night, said that Mitt Romney has a “sterling business career” and that the campaign shouldn’t be about what kind of work Romney did.

“I don’t think we ought to get into the position where we say this is bad work; this is good work,” Clinton said, adding: “There’s no question that, in terms of getting up, going to the office, and basically performing the essential functions of the office, a man who’s been governor and had a sterling business career crosses the qualification threshold.”

Clinton urged the Obama campaign to instead focus on contrasting its vision for the country with Romney’s. His comments came at the tail end of a day in which another Obama surrogate, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D), called Bain a “a perfectly fine company.”

Obviously, Clinton can’t be excused as a political neophyte and probably knew exactly what he was doing when he made that comment. The choice of words — lauding Romney’s “sterling business career” — went beyond what even Patrick or Booker have said about Romney. If Clinton wanted to merely express his disapproval of Obama’s strategy, he could have done it more subtly and without praising Romney’s career. He had to know he was giving Romney a priceless campaign soundbite that it will play on a loop whenever the Obama campaign tries to drag out the Bain attack again, effectively destroying any possibility that the strategy can be salvaged.

The question is, why? In the best case scenario, maybe Clinton was actually trying to help Obama. The former president is extremely well attuned to political trends, and maybe he senses that the Bain strategy will continue to bog down the Obama team if they keep pursuing it. Clinton’s argument that the election has to be about the big picture was similar to an argument his former pollster Douglas Schoen has made: Obama needs a clear, sweeping message for his campaign, a vision for a second term that transcends attack politics. Maybe Clinton was hoping his comments last night would be a sharp nudge in that direction.

Or, more cynically, maybe this wasn’t about helping Obama at all. Clinton has caused some headaches for this White House, and maybe he just doesn’t feel he has much to gain from Obama’s reelection, particularly if he wants Hillary to try again in 2016.

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Why Davis Is Leaving the Democrats

Yesterday, Alana noted the latest fallout from Cory Booker’s critique of the Obama administration on “Meet the Press” and the subsequent, utterly ridiculous “hostage” video he recorded after the Obama campaign reminded him that independent thinking is strongly discouraged in the Democratic Party. Booker’s communications director, Anne Torres, resigned, citing “different views on how communications should be run.”

It wasn’t clear whether Torres objected more to Booker’s defense of capitalism or the cringeworthy apology video–which would have been embarrassing for any communications shop to have on its record–or whether this was merely the last straw in a simmering dispute (possibly about the mayor’s famous obsession with Twitter). But considering that Obama’s Bain attacks made several high-profile Democrats uncomfortable, the fact that Booker was the only one to consent to a walkback video seemed to indicate that the campaign wanted no daylight between Obama and Booker on the issue, even if others strayed from the message. Buzzfeed’s Rosie Gray took a look at how race may have affected the campaign’s damage control strategy:

As Senator Barack Obama rose toward power in 2007 and 2008, he was sometimes taken as the avatar of a new generation of African-American leaders.

They were, PBS’s Gwen Ifill wrote, a “Joshua Generation” led by figures from Alabama Rep. Artur Davis to Newark Mayor Cory Booker. They were, like Obama, born too late to participate in the Civil Rights movement, and late enough to benefit from it with blue chip educations and direct paths to power. They were free of the urban machines that had defined black politics in America, and ready for a different and more hopeful sort of politics of race.

But as President Barack Obama struggles to keep his party united around him, few figures have proven more troublesome than that cadre of black leaders, each of whom was seen at some point as a candidate for the post which only Obama will ever hold: First Black President.

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Yesterday, Alana noted the latest fallout from Cory Booker’s critique of the Obama administration on “Meet the Press” and the subsequent, utterly ridiculous “hostage” video he recorded after the Obama campaign reminded him that independent thinking is strongly discouraged in the Democratic Party. Booker’s communications director, Anne Torres, resigned, citing “different views on how communications should be run.”

It wasn’t clear whether Torres objected more to Booker’s defense of capitalism or the cringeworthy apology video–which would have been embarrassing for any communications shop to have on its record–or whether this was merely the last straw in a simmering dispute (possibly about the mayor’s famous obsession with Twitter). But considering that Obama’s Bain attacks made several high-profile Democrats uncomfortable, the fact that Booker was the only one to consent to a walkback video seemed to indicate that the campaign wanted no daylight between Obama and Booker on the issue, even if others strayed from the message. Buzzfeed’s Rosie Gray took a look at how race may have affected the campaign’s damage control strategy:

As Senator Barack Obama rose toward power in 2007 and 2008, he was sometimes taken as the avatar of a new generation of African-American leaders.

They were, PBS’s Gwen Ifill wrote, a “Joshua Generation” led by figures from Alabama Rep. Artur Davis to Newark Mayor Cory Booker. They were, like Obama, born too late to participate in the Civil Rights movement, and late enough to benefit from it with blue chip educations and direct paths to power. They were free of the urban machines that had defined black politics in America, and ready for a different and more hopeful sort of politics of race.

But as President Barack Obama struggles to keep his party united around him, few figures have proven more troublesome than that cadre of black leaders, each of whom was seen at some point as a candidate for the post which only Obama will ever hold: First Black President.

But Davis was already uncomfortable with the leftward tilt of the Democratic Party, which had been driving out its moderates for years. After Davis left office, he began writing regularly for National Review, after being a go-to guy for leftish dissent for Politico’s “Arena.” Then rumors swirled that Davis was considering a party registration switch to possibly run for office as a Republican in Northern Virginia. Davis has now confirmed those rumors, and posted on his website a statement of explanation in which he airs his disagreement with the Obama administration (and mainstream Democratic Party) about taxes and healthcare policy as well as the “racial spoils system” the Democrats attempt to exploit each election cycle:

On the specifics, I have regularly criticized an agenda that would punish businesses and job creators with more taxes just as they are trying to thrive again. I have taken issue with an administration that has lapsed into a bloc by bloc appeal to group grievances when the country is already too fractured: frankly, the symbolism of Barack Obama winning has not given us the substance of a united country. You have also seen me write that faith institutions should not be compelled to violate their teachings because faith is a freedom, too. You’ve read that in my view, the law can’t continue to favor one race over another in offering hard-earned slots in colleges: America has changed, and we are now diverse enough that we don’t need to accommodate a racial spoils system. And you know from these pages that I still think the way we have gone about mending the flaws in our healthcare system is the wrong way—it goes further than we need and costs more than we can bear.

Davis isn’t a Tea Partier–and certainly neither is Booker. But they also have been uneasy about the extent to which the Democratic Party uses identity politics as an end in itself. Obviously, both were hoping Obama would change that. Booker has shown support for school choice and defended Bain because he, like Davis, wants inner-city youth to get a better shot at an education and to have job opportunities thereafter. Obama may not be in danger of losing black voters’ support in November, but the party he leads is going to have to grapple with a new generation of centrist black politicians who are clearly bothered by a status quo–and the Democratic Party’s strict adherence to it–that remains woefully inadequate to their constituents.

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Booker’s Spokeswoman Walks the Plank

Newark Mayor Cory Booker is apparently still paying penance for his blasphemy against the Obama campaign on “Meet the Press” last week. NJ.com reports that Booker’s Communications Director Anne Torres stepped down today:

“I just decided it is best if I pursued other opportunities,” Torres said by phone. “We have very different views on how communications should be run.”

While a crucial part of the administration’s public face and dealings with the press, Torres’ role is strictly confined to city business. It is unclear what role, if any, she would have had in preparing Booker’s remarks on “Meet the Press,” wherein the mayor said he had “personal” problems with President Obama’s attacks on Bain Capital — problems he called nauseating.

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Newark Mayor Cory Booker is apparently still paying penance for his blasphemy against the Obama campaign on “Meet the Press” last week. NJ.com reports that Booker’s Communications Director Anne Torres stepped down today:

“I just decided it is best if I pursued other opportunities,” Torres said by phone. “We have very different views on how communications should be run.”

While a crucial part of the administration’s public face and dealings with the press, Torres’ role is strictly confined to city business. It is unclear what role, if any, she would have had in preparing Booker’s remarks on “Meet the Press,” wherein the mayor said he had “personal” problems with President Obama’s attacks on Bain Capital — problems he called nauseating.

As NJ.com reports, it’s not clear what part Torres would have played in Booker’s “Meet the Press” remarks. The implication here is that Booker’s comments didn’t accurately reflect his own beliefs, but were instead a communications blunder by his staff. Which is ridiculous – this wasn’t a speech, it was a panel discussion. Whether or not Torres prepped the mayor on the negativity in the Obama anti-Bain ads, Booker was clearly speaking for himself when he criticized them.

While the comments weren’t particularly damaging for Booker, at least not with his constituents, they did hurt Obama and are continuing to drag down his anti-Bain strategy. Did Booker part ways with his communications director under pressure from the Obama campaign, or was it a decision he came to on his own? There’s always the possibility that Booker and his communications staff clashed over the way the initial response to the controversy was handled — the creepy hostage video, for example.

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Mayors Must Now Pass Obama Loyalty Test

Republican candidate Mitt Romney took his campaign to inner city Philadelphia today, but the upshot of the event wasn’t so much his education and school choice agenda as the opportunity it provided for the city’s mayor to show that he was no Cory Booker. Philly Mayor Michael Nutter as well as the city’s District Attorney Seth Williams turned out for the event intent on showing they were prepared to be loyal surrogates for President Obama. Nutter, who is an advocate of school reform, stayed outside the charter school Romney visited and gave a speech to a crowd that came out to jeer the Republican saying:

“It’s nice that he decided this late in his [campaign] to see what a city like Philadelphia is about,” Nutter said. But, he added, “I don’t know that a one-day experience in the heart of West Philadelphia is enough to get you ready to run the United States of America.”

Such raillery is meaningless and to be expected in any political campaign. Romney made a strong statement at the school, and though it’s not likely he will be winning many votes in that West Philadelphia neighborhood in November, his presence there was appropriate. The interesting aspect to the event is the alacrity with which the White House recruited two of the senior officials of the city — both of which are African-Americans like Booker, who presumably have busy schedules of their own–to show up and basically heckle Romney from a street corner more than a block away. After Newark Mayor Booker’s “Meet the Press” heresy this past weekend, the Democrats seem to have decided to dragoon local office holders to publicly demonstrate their loyalty at a moment’s notice with no questions asked.

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Republican candidate Mitt Romney took his campaign to inner city Philadelphia today, but the upshot of the event wasn’t so much his education and school choice agenda as the opportunity it provided for the city’s mayor to show that he was no Cory Booker. Philly Mayor Michael Nutter as well as the city’s District Attorney Seth Williams turned out for the event intent on showing they were prepared to be loyal surrogates for President Obama. Nutter, who is an advocate of school reform, stayed outside the charter school Romney visited and gave a speech to a crowd that came out to jeer the Republican saying:

“It’s nice that he decided this late in his [campaign] to see what a city like Philadelphia is about,” Nutter said. But, he added, “I don’t know that a one-day experience in the heart of West Philadelphia is enough to get you ready to run the United States of America.”

Such raillery is meaningless and to be expected in any political campaign. Romney made a strong statement at the school, and though it’s not likely he will be winning many votes in that West Philadelphia neighborhood in November, his presence there was appropriate. The interesting aspect to the event is the alacrity with which the White House recruited two of the senior officials of the city — both of which are African-Americans like Booker, who presumably have busy schedules of their own–to show up and basically heckle Romney from a street corner more than a block away. After Newark Mayor Booker’s “Meet the Press” heresy this past weekend, the Democrats seem to have decided to dragoon local office holders to publicly demonstrate their loyalty at a moment’s notice with no questions asked.

Given the power of the presidency to make lesser party members — especially those dependent on federal funding to help keep their cities afloat — we can expect this will be one of many examples of Obama’s party taking the equivalent of a public loyalty oath. After Booker, Democratic governors and mayors are on notice and will be required to toe the line when it comes to uncritical praise of the president and unstinting and gratuitous attacks on his opponent at every conceivable opportunity.

Like Booker, Nutter is not your typical machine politician but a bright, popular and innovative politician who has been forced to deal with budget and educational funding issues in ways that left-wing Democrats don’t always applaud. Under normal circumstances he might have been happy to welcome some national attention for Philadelphia charter schools. But after the spectacle of Booker’s “hostage video” recantation this past weekend, Democrats are not taking any chances about being seen as remiss in their loyalty to their peerless leader.

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Pressure Booker? From Inept to Dishonest

Earlier today I criticized Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt for his strikingly inept television appearance. But ineptness is one thing; misleading people is quite another. And as this new RNC ad  makes clear, LaBolt’s statement that the Obama campaign did not reach out to Newark Mayor Cory Booker in the aftermath of Booker’s defense of Bain Capital was simply not true.

Mayor Booker himself admits he was contacted by the Obama campaign. Which means that LaBolt was either lying or he’s speaking out on issues he has no knowledge about while giving us the impression that he’s an authoritative voice.

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Earlier today I criticized Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt for his strikingly inept television appearance. But ineptness is one thing; misleading people is quite another. And as this new RNC ad  makes clear, LaBolt’s statement that the Obama campaign did not reach out to Newark Mayor Cory Booker in the aftermath of Booker’s defense of Bain Capital was simply not true.

Mayor Booker himself admits he was contacted by the Obama campaign. Which means that LaBolt was either lying or he’s speaking out on issues he has no knowledge about while giving us the impression that he’s an authoritative voice.

I have some free counsel for the Obama administration: Get LaBolt off the air before he does more damage to your credibility and your cause.

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Tainted Money from Bain Capital?

Last night, Cory Booker attempted to walk back his Bain Capital comments yet again, this time on the Rachel Maddow show. Why is he even bothering? The damage is already done. The left now sees him as a traitor to the class struggle, bought and paid for, as Cornell West is fond of saying, by the Wall Street oligarchs and corporate plutocrats.

Let’s imagine they’re right, and Booker said what he said because he thinks the Bain attacks are unpopular with his constituents and donors on Wall Street. If that’s the case, shouldn’t Obama take his comments even more seriously? Back in 2008, Obama was the top candidate recipient of donations from the securities and investment industry, raising more than $16 million. So far in 2012, he has raised $2 million. So…maybe Booker has a point.

Still, liberal bloggers are pushing the issue in an effort to run damage control for the Obama campaign. Booker has apparently taken donations from Bain higher-ups over the years, and Think Progress seized on this scandalous scandal as proof of his treachery:

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Last night, Cory Booker attempted to walk back his Bain Capital comments yet again, this time on the Rachel Maddow show. Why is he even bothering? The damage is already done. The left now sees him as a traitor to the class struggle, bought and paid for, as Cornell West is fond of saying, by the Wall Street oligarchs and corporate plutocrats.

Let’s imagine they’re right, and Booker said what he said because he thinks the Bain attacks are unpopular with his constituents and donors on Wall Street. If that’s the case, shouldn’t Obama take his comments even more seriously? Back in 2008, Obama was the top candidate recipient of donations from the securities and investment industry, raising more than $16 million. So far in 2012, he has raised $2 million. So…maybe Booker has a point.

Still, liberal bloggers are pushing the issue in an effort to run damage control for the Obama campaign. Booker has apparently taken donations from Bain higher-ups over the years, and Think Progress seized on this scandalous scandal as proof of his treachery:

Contributions to his 2002 campaign from venture capitalists, investors, and big Wall Street bankers brought him more than $115,000 for his 2002 campaign. Among those contributing to his campaign were John Connaughton ($2,000), Steve Pagliuca ($2,200), Jonathan Lavine ($1,000) — all of Bain Capital. While the forms are not totally clear, it appears the campaign raised less than $800,000 total, making this a significant percentage.

He and his slate also jointly raised funds for the “Booker Team for Newark” joint committee. They received more than $450,000 for the 2002 campaign from the sector — including a pair of $15,400 contributions from Bain Capital Managing Directors Joshua Bekenstein and Mark Nunnelly. It appears that for the initial campaign and runoff, the slate raised less than $4 million — again making this a sizable chunk.

In all — just in his first mayoral run — Booker’s committees received more than $565,000 from the people he was defending. At least $36,000 of that came from folks at Romney’s old firm.

In other words, they’re going further than just attacking Romney’s tenure at Bain. They’re now claiming the firm itself is so poisonous that even taking money from its executives is enough to taint a politician.

This attack becomes problematic because both Obama and the DNC have taken large contributions from Bain employees, including several of the executives accusatorily cited in the Think Progress article. Bain’s Managing Partner Steve Pagliuca, and Managing Directors Jonathan Lavine and Mark Nunnelly have already given the maximum donation to the Obama campaign and the DNC for the 2012 campaign cycle, each contributing $35,800 to the Obama Victory Fund 2012 and $30,800 to the campaign committee.

Lavine has also been one of Obama’s top bundlers, raising over $100,000* for him so far this cycle.

And yet Think Progress is trying to smear Booker by saying these Bain executives kicked his campaign a few thousand dollars each back in 2002?

It doesn’t look good. Some of the Bain executives listed are long-time DNC donors, and what are they getting for it now? A $700 million dollar national campaign against their company? Targeted attacks from Democratic think tank bloggers? That kind of treatment isn’t going to inspire confidence in potential Obama donors watching from the sdelines.

*I initially wrote that Lavine raised over $1 million – that was actually the number of total contributions he’s given to all federal candidates, parties and PACs since 1990, according to OpenSecrets.

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