Sen. Cory Booker visits New Hampshire in preview for 2020

Sen. Cory Booker

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., speaks at a Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Alex Brandon/AP Photo, File)

Sen. Cory Booker, returning to the first-in-the-nation primary state Saturday for a two-day trip that could turn out to be a tuneup for the New Jersey Democrat’s potential presidential campaign, said the visit leaves him “a lot more confident in making decisions going forward.”

Booker was invited by the New Hampshire Democratic Party to headline its post-midterm election “victory celebration” in Manchester.

But the likely presidential contender was also the main attraction at a house party with activists in Nashua, at the home of longtime former state Sen. Bette Lasky. He’ll also be the guest of honor at house parties in Concord and Sunday in Keene.

Booker, who’s said in recent weeks that he’ll take the holiday season to assess whether to run for the White House in 2020, told The Associated Press that the trip is “really helpful to me in understanding what a potential presidential campaign would be about.”

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He added that coming to New Hampshire makes “me feel a lot more centered, a lot more grounded, and a lot more confident in making decisions going forward.”

Booker said he had “no specific timeline” to make a presidential campaign announcement. He said he first wants to get through the lame duck congressional session, in which he’s one of the leaders trying to pass bipartisan justice reform legislation.

After that, he said, “I really need to sit down, take a deep breath . and really focus on my sense of purpose.”

Booker spoke with the AP at the Riverwalk Café in Nashua, his first stop in New Hampshire this weekend. He huddled for nearly an hour with two top local Democrats – longtime Mayor Jim Donchess, and state Sen.-elect Cindy Rosenwald.

Also accompanying Booker at the café and throughout the weekend is Jim Demers, a leading New Hampshire-based Democratic strategist who’s backing the senator if he runs and who helped plan the trip’s itinerary. Demers was co-chair of then-Sen. Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign in New Hampshire, guiding the future president through the state.

Booker also mingled with the breakfast crowd at the cafe, speaking with customers at every table and taking selfies patrons.

The visit is Booker’s second to New Hampshire in two months. He campaigned with congressional candidate Chris Pappas and gubernatorial nominee Molly Kelly at a rally at the University of New Hampshire in Durham and with Rep. Annie Kuster at Dartmouth College in late October, just a week and a half before the midterm elections in which the Democrats won back control of the House. Pappas and Kuster won their races, while Kelly lost hers.

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