Cory Booker Keeps Going

Cory Booker Keeps Going

In less than six hours, we will know who’s officially made the cut for next week’s Democratic primary debate.

O.K., we basically already know the seven candidates who will participate, barring the release of a bunch of new polls by the deadline late tonight. (Unlikely!) And one candidate who will not be on the stage is Cory Booker.

The New Jersey senator has been trying to turn a crisis into an opportunity, grabbing media attention for campaigning through Iowa cornfields, collecting unexpected endorsements and criticizing the Democratic National Committee’s debate qualifying process. (Candidates must show enough support in national or state polls from D.N.C.-selected polling firms, and Mr. Booker has said billionaires can “juice their polling” through television advertising.)

I talked to Mr. Booker about his support, the debate rules and whether his failure to make the December stage spells the end of his campaign. (Spoiler: He says no.)

Here are edited excerpts from our conversation.

Hi, Senator. Thanks for chatting with us today. You’ve said in the past that not qualifying for the next debate would force some “difficult decisions” about your campaign. Is that still how you feel?

We’ve actually had a tremendous surge in support these last few weeks since the last debate. We’ve broken records in our campaign for online fund-raising. The response from the American people since our last debate has been the best of the campaign. So we’re really enjoying the best month of momentum we’ve had yet.

We still see, even without this one debate, a wide pathway to make it to the January debate stage depending on what the criteria is. But we’re pretty confident, with the same criteria as this, we can make it.

And it’s still seven weeks and six days from the Iowa caucuses. And, according to local media in Iowa, we’re still one of the top competitive campaigns that can actually win in Iowa.

So why hasn’t that energy shown up in the polling, which would help you qualify for the stage?

Since the last debate, there has not been a poll in Iowa or South Carolina. And that is really unfair.

The D.N.C. has farmed out their qualifying criteria. No. 1, they’ve picked inferior criteria that does advantage billionaire candidates. But then they outsource it to people that actually weren’t going to do any polls between the time I was on the last debate stage going to this one. So we didn’t even get to see if there was a bounce for us where we see it: on the ground in places like Iowa and South Carolina and New Hampshire.

How much do you think these debates matter in the race?

They’ve been material for us in the sense that every debate has led to a surge in donations. And again, if you’re not self-financing your election, those surges really help you to apply resources to your campaign.

That said, again, we’re seeing an incredible response from the nation right now, getting contributions, tens of thousands of new and unique contributors contributing to our campaign, as well as people doubling and tripling down in their donations. So we sort of insulated ourselves from the lack of this opportunity.

So, it’s not going to be an all-white debate stage because Andrew Yang qualified. But are there issues that you worry are going to be missing, given that Senator Kamala Harris dropped out of the race and you’re not going to be there?

Clearly, there are many issues that were brought up by the diverse voices. But that does not exclude my colleagues on the stage next week from bringing them up. Walking my streets or going to my bodega, what I’ve heard more from people is a sense of hurt, that they feel like the people that they felt shared their lived experiences have been unfairly excluded. And it’s from the very party that is going to rely on their votes to win Senate seats, congressional seats and governor’s seats. And obviously the presidency.

We should not be a party heading into a national election with a feeling among key members of our constituency that this was not a fair process.

Are there changes that you’re encouraging the D.N.C. to make to have a more inclusive stage?

We have made no formal proposal to the D.N.C. whatsoever. Clearly, the criteria they’re using right now is working against the voters in the early primary states. What the D.N.C. is doing right now is excluding viable campaigns and advantaging other campaigns over ones that have a fair, if not equal or better chance of winning.

What’s your big message to voters on this whole December debate?

The debates are not definitive and they haven’t been. Our campaign continues, debate or not.

Want to learn more about the state of Mr. Booker’s campaign? Read this excellent dispatch from Iowa by Nick Corasaniti, our campaign (dis)information newsletter guru.

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With the impeachment inquiry racing ahead, it can be hard to keep track of the daily stream of new developments. So my colleague Noah Weiland, who writes our Impeachment Briefing newsletter, has generously volunteered to catch us up every Thursday on what has happened during the week.

  • The House announced formal articles of impeachment. On Tuesday, Democrats released draft versions of two articles of impeachment, the first accusing President Trump of abusing his power by having solicited election help from Ukraine, and the second accusing him of obstructing Congress in its inquiry. On Thursday, the House Judiciary Committee was debating and considering amendments to the drafts ahead of what was expected to be an evening vote on final versions, which will be sent to the full House for a vote.

  • There was almost a third article. Hoping to keep the case focused on Ukraine, House Democrats decided against an additional article of impeachment related to Mr. Trump’s alleged obstruction of the Mueller investigation, after a dramatic, last-minute debate. They also opted not to charge Mr. Trump with “bribery” or “extortion,” as they had contemplated in recent weeks. Those terms could have invited a complicated argument about judicial precedents.

  • The Judiciary Committee and its staff kept long, odd hours. They worked out of a loose web of offices littered with empty soda cans and files from past impeachment proceedings. They held a late-night hearing Wednesday to begin debating impeachment articles. And they even let a New York Times photographer in to document the behind-the-scenes activity.

  • The stage is set for a full House vote, tentatively planned for the middle of next week, before lawmakers leave for Christmas break. Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday that she is not asking Democrats to vote to impeach Mr. Trump and will allow them to follow their conscience. If the House votes to impeach, that sets up a Senate trial for early 2020, which Republican senators hinted this week could be brief.

You can sign up for the Impeachment Briefing newsletter here.

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