If U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) runs for president in 2020, he may feel like he’s been there and done that.
Booker, after all, has run against President Donald J. Trump before.
In some significant ways, Trump resembles former Newark Mayor Sharpe James, whom Booker challenged in 2002. Like Trump, James had been in the public eye nearly as far back as anyone could remember. He has his own style, to put it gently. Certainly the young guy-older guy matchup resonates in both cases. Then a Central Ward councilman, Booker relished taking on a citywide institution when he ran against Sharpe. The eminently theatrical James’ local diehard, impassioned base, moreover, compares in miniature to what Trump now stands astride nationally.
Booker must feel like he can defeat Trump, just as he committed himself to the win in 2002.
He probably feels, for a variety of reasons, like he has to beat him.
But he also has the experience of knowing that if he comes up short in taking on galvanized base-fortified Trump, as he did against James, he can nonetheless forge a political footprint that people won’t be able to resist when he runs a second time.
He can be that reanimated young gun again, strengthened by the title shot.
It was citywide in 2002, the Newark template for a national-sized 2020 bid.
In 2006, four years after beating Booker, James declined to pursue reelection, clearing the path for everybody’s favorite Rhodes Scholar to romp to victory over the runway-truncated state Senator Ronald Rice (D-28).
Come 2020, Booker can either finally chase away the ghost of that 2002 loss to James by beating fellow cranky father figure Trump the first time, or establish himself with a national-sized, leave-it-all-out-on-the-field, I-am-the-leader-we’ve-been-looking-for run of a lifetime against a head-for-the-exits guy to leave no doubt about his 2024 shot.