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Booker Blunder Highlights Democratic Divide

May 21, 2012

Meet the Press has lately become a forum of campaign flubs from President Obama's leading surrogates. For the second time in three weeks, a leading Obama supporter went on the show, and stomped over the campaign message - first Vice President Biden caused Team Obama headaches on gay marriage, and yesterday Newark Mayor Cory Booker undermined the campaign's central argument against Mitt Romney's private equity work.

Booker condemned the Obama campaign's attacks on Romney's record - along with the GOP attacks against former Obama pastor Jeremiah Wright - as something he was very "uncomfortable with" and later called those types of negative ads "nauseating."  Making matter worse, his post-show damage control consisted of a Tweet calling on Obama to elevate the rhetoric like in 2008 -- offering a subtle reminder that 2012 is not the same as the campaign the president ran four years ago. Within hours, the Obama campaign was doing rapid-fire cleanup, with Booker taping a four-minute video explaining his remarks - and the Obama campaign excerpting a portion of it, to suggest the mayor was backtracking on what he said.

Booker's comments reflected an uncomfortable reality within the Democratic coalition.  Obama made significant inroads with wealthy voters in 2008, and a good chunk of his campaign cash that year came from well-heeled Wall Street donors.  But as Obama's rhetoric has turned populist to capitalize on Romney's biographical vulnerabilities, he's alienated elements of that coalition.  Booker isn't the only high-profile Democrat with Wall Street connections raising questions about the Obama campaign's populist appeals - it follows similar criticisms from Obama auto adviser Steve Rattner, former Rep. Harold Ford, Jr., and JPMorgan Chase's Jamie Dimon, a past Obama donor and supporter.  And Wall Street money has dried up, playing a role in the president's less-than-imposing fundraising totals for the year.

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