So, How did New Jersey’s Cory Booker do in the First Democratic Presidential Debate?

Insider NJ's Fred Snowflack analyzes Sen. Cory Booker's performance in the first Democratic presidential debate.

Cory Booker says he knows a lot about guns.

“I hear gun shots in my neighborhood,” Booker said Wednesday night referring to his home in Newark.

The comment was not new. Booker often has talked about the particular perils of residing in urban America. Many people live in America’s cities, but not many of them are running for president.of the United States.

Taking part in the first half of the two-part Democratic presidential debate, Booker really wasn’t looking for a knockout. That would have been unrealistic.

His goal had to be a bit more modest – to be noticed in this crowded roster of candidates.

The feeling here is that he accomplished that, especially when it came to guns.

There’s no “debate” here. All the candidates generally speaking back more gun control, specifically broader background checks and a nationwide ban on semi-automatic weapons.

But this was a good moment for Booker – probably his best – because he spoke with real emotion.

“Thoughts and prayers,” he said are just not good enough.

Another good and passionate moment for the senator was when he spoke in support of LGBT rights. As some of the other candidates talked about their support of “equality bills” in Congress, Booker was
unimpressed.

He said the key is not merely voting “yes” on such bills, but publicly supporting the interests of gay people, which he vowed to do as president.

Those moments came past the halfway point in the debate. Booker did not seem to distinguish himself in the early going.

Near the beginning of the evening, Booker joined most of the other candidates in saying he opposed doing away with private health insurance in favor of Medicare for all. Then he said his position on
health care was “very clear.”

Actually, it wasn’t.

True, the candidates didn’t have a lot of time, but Booker spent his with a rambling response about improving access and how lack of health care adversely impacts education. No specifics here.

Booker supported President Obama’s 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.

So it seemed a trifle odd that when the candidates were asked if the deal, which President Trump nullified, should be restored, Booker didn’t raise his hand. But then he said the U.S. should not have pulled out of the deal. He added that as president he would want a better deal.

Huh?

With 10 people on stage, there were times when the candidates talked over each other and made some snide comments. Booker, who likes to strike an optimistic, cheery tone, more or less stayed away from that.

He used his 45-second closing statement to reiterate his theme that a presidential campaign should strive to talk about what’s good with America more than what’s wrong with it.

That’s uplifting to a point, but in dealing with a president who has talked about American “carnage” and who seeks to divide every chance he gets, you wonder how realistic that is.

Booker entered the debate polling no higher than 3 percent in any poll.

He probably helped himself Wednesday night, but it’s hard to see his poll numbers rising substantially.

 

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