Cory Booker is already the heavy favorite in the New Jersey Senate race after winning the Democratic nomination last week, but now he officially has President Barack Obama's stamp of approval in the October special election.
Obama didn't weigh into the contested party primary, and backing the Newark mayor after he's already the nominee isn't a shocking move. Booker easily bested Reps. Frank Pallone, Rush Holt and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver in last week’s primary and now faces Republican nominee Steve Lonegan in the Oct. 16 special election to succeed the late Frank Lautenberg.
If he wins, Booker would be the only elected African-American currently elected to the Senate. President Obama was the last to win election outright in 2004 and more recent senators, including Tim Scott of South Carolina and Mo Cowan of Massachusetts, were appointed following vacancies.
“Cory Booker has dedicated his life to the work of building hope and opportunity in communities where too little of either existed. Whether as a college student working in East Palo Alto or as mayor of New Jersey’s largest city, Cory has time and again taken on tough challenges, fought for the middle class and those working to join it, and forged coalitions that create progress -- and that's the spirit he'll carry with him to Washington," Obama said in his statement. "His passion for his city has helped create new jobs and attract some of America’s top businesses to Newark. Cory will be an important partner in our efforts to reduce gun violence, give every American a fair shot in a global economy, and make our country stronger."
Booker said he was "humbled by President Obama’s endorsement," but the admiration between the two and the close relationships between their staffs is hardly anything new. Booker was an early backer of Obama's 2008 bid, and the president's senior advisor Valerie Jarrett had reportedly been among those who pushed Booker to run for Senate and kept Obama updated about the race. Booker also hired many Obama campaign veterans for his race, including 270 Strategies, the new firm founded by the president's field veterans Jeremy Bird and Mitch Stewart. Obama's pollster, Joel Benenson, also polled for Booker, and former OFA political director Addisu Demissie managed Booker's race.
A poll earlier this week from Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press showed Booker has a 16-point lead in the special general election, but that the primary campaign, where his opponents took shots at his record in Newark and his personal finances, had chipped away at his favorability rating.