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Tonight’s ABC/Univison debate stage represents another opportunity for U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) to impress cable pundits with a dazzling display of savoir faire, urbanity, progressive passion, detail-oriented answers and inspiration – and presumably show nothing at the end of it in the way of a bump in the polls.
Booker’s single-digit staging of a Samuel Beckett play with the likes of similarly Sisyphus-toiling Beto O’Rourke and Andrew Yang while alpha candidates Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden crowd the top contender tier puzzles even the likes of veteran pollster Patrick Murray of Monmouth University.
“I’ve seen nearly all the candidates on the campaign trail in Iowa or New Hampshire or both,” Murray said, referring to the 2020 Democratic candidates for president. “If you were to judge by appearances, you would think Booker must be in the top tier. I’m not sure why that hasn’t translated into a bump in the polls for him.
“As long as he has the funding to keep his operation plugging along he will make it to the those February contests,” the pollster added. “A breakout performance in this debate will certainly help him, but it’s not quite a necessity yet. That could rapidly change, though, if other lower-tier candidates take flight and outflank him.”
Talking to people in Iowa, Murray said he notes Booker’s name in the mix in many conversations.
“They’re just way too many candidates,” he added of a field still hovering near 20. “If it were a field of six or seven, he would poll better.”
But what is it exactly that people don’t see?
Anecdotally, sources gripe about the candidate’s perceived lack of authenticity.
But that could be a complaint about any presidential candidate.
“Booker comes off as a very good cheerleader but not necessarily the quarterback,” Murray told InsiderNJ. “Nobody who can wrench emotions from audiences on a given night, but when they wake up the next day and really think about it, that’s not what they want from someone as president.”
Booker’s in a friend zone, Murray said.
But he’s still short of turning stagecraft into the sure bet of national level executive statecraft.