Punxsutawney Cory Booker sees Chris Christie’s shadow and flees

This is commentary from political blogger and cartoonist Rob Tornoe.

Chris Christie should be able to enjoy Christmas a little easier this year. After all, despite riding high in the polls following his bipartisan lovefest with President Obama during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, New Jersey is a solidly blue state, and theoretically a strong Democrat could be a significant challenge to his re-election and rocket-ship approach to a Presidential bit in 2016.

But worries along those lines ended late last week, when Newark Mayor Cory Booker announced he won’t run against Christie in 2013, and intends to “explore” a U.S. Senate run instead. 

As my cartoon suggests, this isn’t about the leadership of a man who has made a career rescuing people from burning buildings or personally shoveling out residents who pleaded for help on Twitter. This is the move of a pragmatic politician who stuck his finger into the wind and determined the easiest route to sustained employment and influence. Wait, excuse me… I meant public service. Forgive me.

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Booker’s political cowardice is even more punctuated by his current standing as celebrity du jour in national Democratic circles, something that has made certain Democrats in New Jersey a bit prickly. Booker would have the national support and fundraising capacity that most other gubernatorial candidates not named Jon Corzine could only dream of, yet even those built-in advantages weren’t enough to prevent him from quickly exiting the race, stage left.

The only problem with stage left is there’s currently a Democrat there, tough-as-nails Senator Frank Lautenberg, and by all accounts he’s interested in another run, even at the age of 88. If Lautenberg does run, the primary is going to be vicious and nasty, and make Lautenberg’s 2008 primary with Rep. Rob Andrews look like a kids show on Nickelodeon. Lautenberg can be scrappy, and he has nothing to loose by going in guns blazing. The two already had a Twitter spat last week following NRA head Wayne LaPierre’s press conference. 

Lautenberg will have a lot of ammo. As the mayor of one of America’s most troubled cities, Booker might be able to count on Jon Stewart and Ellen DeGeneres to portray him as a superhero, but as the New York Times noted, Booker’s tenure in Newark is troubled at best:

“Taxes have risen more than 20 percent over the past three years, even after the city laid off about 1,100 workers, including more than 160 police officers. Crime has risen, and unemployment is up. Schools remain under state control, and the city’s finances remain so troubled that it cannot borrow to fix its antiquated water system. While new restaurants have risen near the Prudential Center downtown, those in the outer wards were placed under a curfew this year because of shootings and drug dealing.”

Maybe with all that baggage, a safer run at a Senate seat in a solidly-blue state is the sensible choice for Booker. I guess I was just hoping for something bolder from the supposedly altruistic Twitter hero. #Disappointed


Rob Tornoe is a political cartoonist and a WHYY contributor. See more of his work at RobTornoe.com, and follow him on twitter @RobTornoe.

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