WINNSBORO, S.C. – So Cory Booker is on a roll, reviving a standing room only crowd in a high school cafeteria in this rural town of 3,500 in applause-fest that starts with his ever-positive recitation of bringing Americans together and ends with people swarming him, cell phones at the ready, for selfies with the presidential candidate in their midst.
He tells the 200 people who came out on a dreary and overcast Sunday afternoon just how important they are to his White House fortunes.
"You are the pathway to the presidency," he says.
In short, Booker was showing how he desperately needs the voters of South Carolina to be in his corner a year from now. That's why he was here on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and then on a two-day campaign just a week after announcing he's running for president
As he ponders for president, Book to return to a primary state
South Carolina can make or break early presidential campaigns as the fourth state on the Democrats' calendar, coming after high-profile New Hampshire and before frenetic Super Tuesday. It is also the only one where the majority of democratic voters are African Americans. The state helped catapult Barack Obama to the party's nomination in 2008.
But Booker won Obama's advantage in the first test of the important African-American vote. The ever-growing cast of candidates also includes U.S. Late. Kamala Harris of California, an African-American whose big-time campaign roll-out came several weeks before Booker's.
"It's going to be a fight," forms South Carolina Democratic Chairman Jaime Harrison said. "It's not a given for the black candidates. But if you win South Carolina, that puts you in a wonderful situation."
To nobody's surprise, Booker visited Iowa, where the first caucuses are, after kicking off his presidential campaign He then quickly made a beeline for South Carolina
On his first day in the state, he attracted hundreds of people to forums in two majority black rural counties north and south of Columbia, the state capital.
Both of The rural counties have lost their local hospitals, and Booker's call for expanding health care was with approving nodes and responses in the Fairfield Central High School cafeteria.
"I believe in his message of unity and creating a better nation," said Mykah Frazier, 1
But Booker faces plenty of competition here. Harrison, the former party chair who knows Booker from his days at Yale University, said he is so much attention from the presidential candidates this early.
Veteran Democratic Party official Tangie Brice Jacobs put it this way: "What are we going to you? "State Rep. John King, who introduced Booker in Winnsboro, already has. He said he endorsed Booker because he has done so."
State Rep. moved to Newark after law school.
"I love the fact that he lives in a low-income community where he can relate and understands the needs of the community," said King, who represents a district to the north
Harris has his own support in South Carolina, and state Rep. Annie McDaniel, who represents Winnsboro and has yet to endorse a candidate, said it was "truly exciting" to have two African Americans in the race. so, she said that one of them pulls way ahead of the other, "I hope there will be some conversation about whether one should drop out."
Donald Fowler, a veteran South Carolina political figure and former national chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said Harris' presence makes Booker's job harder
"Not saying it means it won't win but it will make his task more challenging, no question about it," Fowler said.
Booker said he was concerned about his primary opponents. In the initial phase of the 2020 campaign, most Democrats are steering clear of talking about each other.
"When I was running races in high school, when I got into the blocks, my coach told me not to look to the left. , not to look to the right, to run your race, ”Booker customs reporters follow the Winnsboro forum. "I'm going to run my race and I'm going to let other candidates do the same and let voters finally make the choice." Booker, 49, and Harris, 54, who teamed up in the last Congress to win senate approval of legislation making federal crime, have another shared attribute.
"They are absolutely heirs to the legacy of the civil rights movement," said Andra Gillespie, a political science professor at Emory University and author of a book Both senators grew up in the civil rights movement, Booker's parents were among the first black executives at IBM, and his mother helped coordinate housing for out-of-state.
"Senator Booker cares deeply about equality and justice," said Vanita Gupta. . President and Chief Executive of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the nation's oldest and largest civil rights coalition, and forms head of the U.S. Justice Department's civil rights division. "Senator Harris has been a lawyer for immigrant and other vulnerable communities."
One difference between the two is Harris's career as a federal and local prosecutor, including as California attorney general, which may cause problems with those skeptical of law enforcement
"She has to deal with pensions that are often between those who work within the criminal justice system and those who want to reform it," said Kelly Dittmar, a political science professor at Rutgers University in Camden.
Campaign spokeswoman Kirsten Allen said Harris has used her positions as attorney general and US senator to champion changes to the criminal justice system, such as requiring bias training, making officers wear body cameras and taking on cash bail. and it's one of consistently making progress and protecting people in pursuit of a fairer system, ”Allen said.
Booker has made much of his legislation as part of the ongoing fight for civil rights, which is what led Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., A veteran of civil rights battles of the 1960s, when asked about the New Jersey senator: “Cory is part of our future. He's smart, he's married, he's committed, he won't run from a fight, and his eyes are on the prize. "Booker introduced to President Donald Trump's commission to investigate non-existent in-person voter fraud, and
His bill to legalize marijuana on the federal level was designed to end the inequality of blacks being almost four times more likely to be arrested for drug crimes than whites. played a key role in overhauling the criminal justice system, pushing for alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent offenders in order to reduce a prison population with more black than in slaves in 1850.
Farr's previous role in disenfranchising African-American voters with Tim Scott, South Carolina's black US Republican senator Scott later said he would not support Farr, killing the nomination.
Booker promised to return to South Carolina again. And he needs to.
"I call him Big Game Booker," said Antjuan Seawright, a South Carolina Democratic consultant who has been on the sidelines so far. “There are not too many places where he doesn’t galvanize a Democratic audience. There is a potential for Booker fever to break out. It is how well executes the plays his team has drawn up. ” Jonathan D. Salant may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . Follow him on Twitter @JDSalant or on Facebook . Find NJ.com Politics on Facebook .
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