- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 12, 2019

Sen. Cory A. Booker is vowing to fight on in the Democratic presidential race after coming to grips with the fact that his hopes of qualifying for the debate next week in Los Angeles are likely dashed.

The Booker campaign is putting on a brave face, saying the New Jersey Democrat’s fate rests in the hands of voters in the early primary states and that’s where he plans to invest his energy and resources before the Feb. 3 Iowa caucuses.

“We still see a path to victory to the Democratic nomination that does not include the December debate stage as a requirement,” Booker campaign manager Addisu Demissie told reporters in a conference call.

The 50-year-old former mayor of Newark has been searching for a breakout moment since he entered the race, and there has been a bubbling sense that his time had arrived following Sen. Kamala Harris’ abrupt departure from the race.

The Booker endorsements have been rolling in, the crowds turning up at his events have grown and the money has been coming in at a faster rate than normal — pulling in more than $3 million of the last three weeks.

Mr. Demissie said the cash influx has allowed them to set aside $500,000 for television and digital ads in Iowa.

Still, the interest in his bid lags behind others, as evidenced by their superior fundraising, their more consistent crowd sizes and the fact that they — unlike Mr. Booker — have been on-air and have cleared the polling thresholds the Democratic National Committee has laid out.

In an interview Wednesday on the Breakfast Club, Mr. Booker couldn’t hide his disappointment.

“Polling is such bull—,” Mr. Booker said Wednesday on the Breakfast Club. “There has never been a point in the Democratic Party in our lifetime where somebody who was leading in the polls went to the White House this far out.”

The DNC announced a year ago that candidates would have to meet fundraising and polling targets to qualify for the debate stage.

They set the bar low for the first two debates, which featured 20 candidates, and have gradually raised the thresholds, angering candidates who have fallen short.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii announced last week that she plans to boycott even if she qualified. That decision, though, was taken out of her hands when she failed to qualify.

Mr. Booker, though, is holding out hope that a top-four finish in Iowa could breathe life into his campaign and give him momentum going into New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, where his campaign maintains he is poised to make inroads with black voters despite barely registering in the polls there.

The Booker camp is taking inspiration from then-Sen. Barack Obama’s rise in the 2008 election when he shocked the political world by defeating Hillary Clinton in Iowa, sending a message to primary voters across the country that he was a serious contender.

They also have noted Sen. John Kerry’s come-from-behind victory in 2004, saying the Massachusetts Democrat was lagging behind in the polls at this point in the race.

James Demers, a senior adviser to the campaign, struck an optimistic note, saying the race remains fluid.

“I think the race is starting to change,” he said. “The field is winnowing, and there are growing discussions about diversity in the field.”

“I think those changes are creating a new focus on Cory Booker, so I believe he is getting a new shot of attention at the right time,” Mr. Demers said. “Voters are about to do their own winnowing of maybe a half dozen or so favorites, and he is in that mix.”

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