Just after Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed, Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) flew to Iowa for this year’s Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, Politico reports.
Iowa is, of course, the home of presidential proving ground the Iowa Caucus and is a state anyone who wants to be president needs behind them. Obama gave a stirring speech at the 2007 Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, an affair put on by the Iowa Democratic Party and was immediately favored to win the state’s primary.
This year, it was Booker’s turn at the podium, and after his speech, Iowa Democrats were reportedly more than won over.
“You don’t give a speech like that unless you’re running for president,” Scott Brennan, the former chair of the Iowa Democratic Party, said after the crowd had given the New Jersey senator rapturous applause.
Although Booker did not use the platform for announcing his much-rumored 2020 run for the White House, he did give a speech that was nothing short of presidential, according to the Des Moines Register.
“This is not a time to curl up,” Booker told the 1,100 Iowa Democrats in attendance. “It is not a time to shut up. It is not a time to give up. It is a time to get up, to rise up, to speak up!”
Those words reportedly brought loud applause, as did what Booker said directly after: “It is time for you not to wait for hope, but to be the hope.”
The senator also won applause with shots at President Trump, telling his audience, “We’re not defined by a president who does not believe women.”
In a more subtle rebuke to the commander-in-chief, Booker said, “You cannot love your country unless you love your fellow countrymen and women. Democrats will never be pulled down so low that we hate folk. We can’t hate Republicans. We need each other, as Americans.”
Republicans responded to Booker’s appearance with derision.
Jeff Kaufmann, head of the Iowa Republican Party, said, “Senator ‘Spartacus’ thinks his vapid stunts in New Jersey and D.C. have earned him frontrunner status for 2020, but voters will grow tired of his premeditated outrage.”
In using the name ‘Spartacus,’ Kaufmann was referencing Booker’s threat during the Senate Judiciary Committee's first Kavanaugh hearing to leak classified documents.
As the New York Post reminds us, Booker said after issuing his threat, “This is the closest I’ll get to an ‘I am Spartacus’ moment.”
It turned out the documents Booker wanted to leak had been declassified not long before he decided they needed to be made public by any means necessary, taking some of the bite out of the moment.
Nevertheless, that move and his questioning during the second Kavanaugh hearing did much to raise his national profile. That goes for Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA), as well. Harris was not in attendance at Saturday’s dinner but has dispatched a staffer to the state to work under Iowa Democrat Abby Finkenauer, according to a separate Register report.
According to Bloomberg, Harris has acknowledged that she would like to be president and has verbally teased a run in 2020.
“At some point after [the midterms], we’ll think about that. I’m not going to kid you,” the freshman senator said when asked if she planned on running, reportedly as people in the background chanted, “Harris 2020!”
In 2020, Iowa is again set to be the first state in the U.S. to hold its caucus — the bellwether contest is set for February 3 of that year. With his speech, Booker became the first Democrat to make a significant splash in the state ahead of 2020.
Other possible Democratic Party contenders include former Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). President Trump has already begun laying the groundwork for his bid for a second term.
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