A few delegates were teary-eyed and most were on their feet when Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker delivered a stirring address to the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday in support of President Obama and the party platform.
Too bad his speech was given four hours before Americans tuned in and networks began their coverage of the convention.
Only three short months ago, the charismatic Booker—known around the country for his prolific Twitter feed and for running into a burning house to save his neighbor’s daughter—found himself on the hot seat when he called the Obama campaign’s attacks on Bain Capital “nauseating.”
“To me, it’s just we’re getting to a ridiculous point in America. Especially that I know I live in a state where pension funds, unions, and other people invest in companies like Bain Capital. If you look at the totality of Bain Capital’s record, they’ve done a lot to support businesses, to grow businesses,” he said in an appearance on Meet the Press in May, veering away from the campaign script. “Enough is enough. Stop attacking private equity.”
Booker went on to air a four-minute “hostage video” to walk back his remarks after being contacted by the campaign. He hasn’t appeared as an Obama surrogate on national television since then, and when the convention schedule was released, he was pointedly left out of prime time, unlike some other, lesser-known, mayors, such as Julian Castro of San Antonio.
Nevertheless, Booker was back on message and back in the game on Tuesday night. There was no mention of private equity but there was a rousing defense of Democratic policies to benefit the middle class. Don’t tell Booker no one was listening.
“You should be able to afford health care for your families. You should be able to retire with dignity and respect. And you should be able to give your children the kind of education that allows them to dream even bigger, go even further, and accomplish more than you could have imagined,” Booker boomed to hearty applause.
Rutgers political-science professor Ross Baker said that Booker’s remarks were tailored narrowly enough to be seen as a hit on Republican nominee Mitt Romney but not on Wall Street as a whole; financial firms, after all, have given to Booker’s campaigns and partnered with him on Newark initiatives.
Was Booker’s early-evening slot a slap on the wrist for his earlier transgression? Baker doesn’t think so. “I suppose if Cory Booker were doing the scheduling, he would’ve put himself later, but he wasn’t, and he was given a nice chunk of time, and I really think it made sense,” said Baker, a former Democratic consultant and Senate aide.
Booker managed to rev up the party faithful as a warm-up to speakers later in the night, and he introduced himself to activists who could be helpful, especially in fundraising, if and when Booker decides to run for higher office. In New Jersey, it’s widely acknowledged that Booker’s ambitions go beyond Newark, and he is said to be weighing a run against Gov. Chris Christie in 2013.
Still, there were some drawbacks to airing in the early-bird hour. Two Democratic consultants contacted for this story couldn’t comment—both had missed Booker’s speech.
This article appears in the September 6, 2012, edition of NJ Convention Daily.