By Robert Laurie
As surely as that first red robin is an early sign of spring, a shameless career politician heading to Iowa is a sign of an impending presidential run.
That’s a political truism not because it’s easy to spot, but because – usually – it pans out. Iowa kicks off the primary season with early caucuses, and anyone wanting to play a role in that election needs to have people on the ground a couple of years out. So, those of us who watch and write about Washington keep an eye on the state to see who’s sending an advance team.
Last week, we argued that Cory “Spartacus” Booker’s shameless grandstanding was likely the first volley in a potential 2020 campaign. He knew he wasn’t really “breaking the rules” when he released emails that had already been cleared for release, but he desperately wanted it to look like he was. If he’s going to ramp-up the 2020 speculation, he needs to get his name in the papers, needs a little rock-em-sock-em street cred, and needs to make sure people have reason to believe he was a guy who will do …something.
So, he put on a little show.
Now we’re hearing that, lo and behold, he has staffers on the ground in Iowa and he’s going to be the keynote speaker at the Iowa State Democratic Party’s big shindig in October. Shocker.
According to multiple sources, Cory Booker has placed four staffers on the ground in Iowa, helping Democratic candidates, as he moves to position himself for a potential presidential bid.
The New Jersey senator has long been mooted as a presidential possibility in 2020. This week he raised his national profile by daring Senate Republicans to bring ethics charges against him for releasing documents related to the supreme court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh.
He announced on Saturday that he will speak at the Iowa Democratic party’s annual gala, a key event for activists in the first state to hold presidential nominating contests.
The “gala” in question used to be called the “Jefferson-Jackson Dinner,” but it’s been renamed because the Democratic party is deathly afraid of any American history that doesn’t comport with modern, politically-correct, sensibilities. If you’re wondering why Booker was given the honor of headlining the event, well….
Booker is widely considered to be a contender for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, and his selection for the top speaking slot at the event in the state whose caucuses kick off the primary season is sure to add to speculation about his intentions and chances.
“Senator Booker represents a future-driven vision for our party and our nation that has inspired millions. As we head in to the most grueling weeks of this cycle, we hope that his message will be the fuel Iowa Democrats need to put our candidates over the top in November,” Troy Price, the state party chairman, said in a release announcing Booker’s selection.
Booker told the Des Moines Register that he was aware of the speculation, but doesn’t really care about it. It seems he’s just too focused on the midterms to think about a presidential bid. As he puts it, a road to resisting Donald Trump “goes through Iowa.”
In an interview with the Des Moines Register, Booker said he knows a prominent speaking engagement in Iowa will fuel speculation about presidential ambitions, but he cited a sense of urgency to energize Democrats ahead of the November midterm elections.
“Frankly, Iowa’s one of those states that I haven’t gone to a lot because we do know about that speculation,” he said, declining to say whether he is exploring a run. “… I think it’s irresponsible for anybody really to be focusing needed energy on an election two years and two months from now, as opposed to an election just two months from now.”
Anyone buying that? Anyone at all? No? Good. That’s the right instinct.
Whether or not Booker can gain any traction outside of New Jersey is debatable at best. One suspects he’ll be seen as another ICE-hating socialist by much of “flyover country.” However, it’s clear that he’s a guy who believes his own hype. He thinks he’s the next big thing and he has the benefit of a painfully shallow Democratic bench. So, whether or not he has a legitimate chance, you’re going to be seeing a lot of him.
The moves in Iowa are exactly what they seem, and they make perfect sense.