Home>Campaigns>Booker vs. Murphy? New Jersey Democrats keping their options open

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and U.S. Senator Cory Booker ride an Amtrak train together. (Photo: Partido Demócrata de Nueva Jersey).

Booker vs. Murphy? New Jersey Democrats keping their options open

Booker told Washington donors that he wants to be ready if 2024 suddenly opens up

By David Wildstein, December 13 2022 2:22 pm

There’s no doubt that Cory Booker and Phil Murphy are good friends, but that might not stop the two from running against each other for the presidency in 2024 if Joe Biden doesn’t seek re-election.

There’s little doubt that Murphy is ready to take the plunge if Biden opts out, but Booker has been less audacious in his plans for a second presidential campaign.

Sourcing an attendee at a Washington fundraiser for Booker this month, POLITICO reported today that Booker told about 100 donors at a Washington fundraiser this month that “he wants to be ready and that his career has been marked by unexpected opportunities.”

The New Jersey Globe has confirmed the POLITICO report that Booker is preserving his own options.

When Booker sought the White House in 2020, he did it with the almost universal backing of the New Jersey Democratic establishment.  Murphy endorsed Booker right away, along with the entire Democratic congressional delegation and all 21 Democratic county chairs.

If Murphy and Booker both run, Booker would be unlikely to run the table again.  As governor, Murphy, the titular head of the Democratic Party, would have an easier time winning home state endorsements.

Still, there’s no doubt that two favorite sons would put party leaders and elected officials in an uncomfortable position.

“I think Democrats would avoid taking sides.  Donors would contribute to both.  All would hide under a table in a fetal position hoping this gets worked out,” said Micah Rasmussen, the director of the Rebovich Institute of New Jersey Politics at Rider University.

Rank-and-file Democrats like them both: a Monmouth University poll last April put Murphy’s job approval among New Jersey Democrats at 86%-8, while Booker was at 85%-8%.

Murphy and Booker share a number of close friends.  And Murphy’s chief of staff, George Helmy, was Booker’s state director.

While several states had been home to multiple presidential candidates, it’s rare for state has two sitting officeholders take each other on.

Two months after his term ended as governor of Colorado in 2019, John Hickenlooper entered the race for the Democratic presidential nomination; U.S. Senator Michael Bennet entre two months later.

Both U.S. Senators from Indiana, Birch Bayh and Vance Hartke, unsuccessfully sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 1972.   Bayh declined to run after his wife was diagnosed with cancer, and Hartke was out of the race after receiving 2.7% in New Hampshire.

The most memorable intra-state battle was in 1968, when U.S. Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota faced off against Vice President Hubert Humphrey, who got into the race after Lyndon Johnson .  withdrew.

New Jersey could potentially have a third candidate if former Gov. Chris Christie decides to enter the Republican primaries.

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