Gov. Phil Murphy is feeling good about U.S. Senator Cory Booker’s chances in Iowa following a day spent stumping for the presidential candidate in the Hawkeye State.
“I think Cory’s more of an acquired taste, and it’s a story that sort of unfolds and people really have to be walked through his life story, which is incredibly compelling,” Murphy told the New Jersey Globe. “Some people say when they meet him, they feel they’re too good to be true, and the message that I’m giving is I’ve known him for eighteen years, both personally and now professionally, is he’s as good as he seems.”
The Tuesday trip was Murphy’s first time stumping for Booker in another state, and according to Judy Downs, the executive director of Polk County Democrats, Murphy was the first surrogate to appear in Iowa’s largest county on behalf of a 2020 presidential candidate.
On Tuesday, Murphy appeared at a gathering of Polk County Democrats at a tavern where the governor interrupted his speech to grab a beer — a Murphy’s Irish Stout.
The governor met with labor leaders and a group of Iowa lawmakers open to supporting Booker’s presidential bid on Wednesday morning.
He also had one-on-one meetings with an unnamed Iowa legislator and a member of the Democratic National Committee, in addition to various media appearances.
Election observers should expect to see Murphy campaigning for Booker again soon.
“Cory and his team asked me to come here, and I said to them I would come back again in a heartbeat if it worked with the calendar, both to Iowa and or any other places they think make sense,” Murphy said, adding that any further campaign stops would likely happen after New Jersey lawmakers approved a budget. “New Hampshire is one, given that I was born in Massachusetts, that probably is on their list of considerations, but they asked me to come out, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.”
Booker’s team was happy to have New Jersey’s governor acting as a surrogate for their candidate.
“Cory is proud of his years of working alongside Governor Murphy to help lift up all New Jerseyans, and we were grateful to have the governor out in Iowa this week to talk about our campaign’s work to bring people together so we can build a more fair and just country for everyone,” Booker’s Iowa communications director Tom Pietrykoski said.
Booker has been largely confined to the middle of an increasingly-wide field of Democratic presidential candidates.
Real Clear Politics pegs his polling average in Iowa at 3.5%, a figure that puts him seventh out of the 23 Democrats vying to challenge President Donald Trump next November.
Murphy thinks Booker can pull away from the pack.
“I encourage people to look at his (Newark) Central Ward council race, where he was literally — literally — not known by anybody and what he did,” Murphy said.
In 1998, Booker made his first bid for office, ousting 16-year incumbent councilman George Branch in a runoff with roughly 55% of the vote.
Murphy trailed in his early primary polls during his campaign for governor, and he thinks that Booker can enact a rise akin to his and President Barack Obama’s.
“When I was finance chair of the DNC, there was a debate in October of ’07 in Philadelphia that the DNC sponsored. This is October, with the caucus in that cycle in January in Iowa, and Hillary was up by 30 — three-zero — points over Obama,” Murphy said “So, I think there’s lots of evidence to say the numbers at this point don’t really matter. The question is what chess pieces are you putting in place on the board to yield the desired result, which is to be in at least the top handful if not win this thing.”
The governor more than once praised Booker for his infrastructure in Iowa and other early primary states.
That groundwork has been a focus of Booker since before he announced his presidential campaign. For years, Booker has lent his name and oratorical skills to Democratic candidates across the country.
Since announcing, he’s staffed up teams in early-primary states in ways that few other primary contenders have.
“I haven’t been there, but I’ve kicked the tires with the team in Newark as well as here. Cory, his organization is real and impressive in Iowa, as I mentioned only matched — and maybe not even by her — by Senator Warren, but he’s real and impressive similarly in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, and that’s a point that folks need to understand,” Murphy said. “As you know, when folks run for president, sometimes they put all their chips in one or two places. He’s opened up in a meaningful way with a really strong team.”
It’s quite possible that Murphy, a Massachusetts native and Boston Red Sox fan, could prove an effective surrogate in New Hampshire.
“I think the answer’s gotta be yes,” Murphy said when asked if his predilection for Boston’s baseball team would prove valuable on the campaign trail. “That’ll get me no votes in New Jersey, but New Hampshire is a constituent of the Red Sox nation.”