After failing to qualify for the Jan. 14 Democratic Debate in Iowa, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker suspended his presidential campaign on Monday, Jan. 13.
In a message to his supporters, Booker wrote, “I’ve chosen to suspend my campaign for now, take care of my wonderful staff, and give you time to consider the other strong choices in the field.”
Booker is the second Democratic presidential candidate to drop out of the race this month, with former Housing Secretary Julian Castro suspending his campaign on Jan. 2. Castro later endorsed Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren for president
According to Real Clear Politics, Booker was polling at 1.8 percent nationally on Jan. 12, the day before he suspended his campaign.
Booker announced his candidacy on Feb. 1, 2019, on the first day of Black History Month. He is well-known for his prominent position on the Senate Judiciary Committee and liberal-leaning policies. His political positions included reducing taxes for the wealthy and for large corporations and standing against free and global trade.
Senior civil engineering major Alex Kelly is from New Jersey, and was familiar with Booker and his policies prior to his presidential run.
“He is one of the two Senators from New Jersey, definitely the better one in my opinion, for a couple of reasons. But I think knowing that he was the senator from New Jersey, knowing about his background in criminal justice is kind of how I knew him,” Kelly said.
Booker and Castro’s departures from the race now leave just three candidates of color among the 12 presidential hopefuls: former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick (currently polling at 0.3 percent), Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (currently polling at 1.8 percent) and entrepreneur Andrew Yang (currently polling at 3.8 percent). Patrick is the only African-American candidate remaining in the race.
Booker himself commented on the waning diversity in the Democratic presidential field to MSNBC last month.
“We started with one of the most diverse fields in history, giving people pride, and it’s a damn shame now that the only African-American woman in this race [former presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris] who has been speaking to issues that need to be brought up is now no longer in it,” he said. “We’re spiraling towards a debate stage that potentially could have six people with no diversity whatsoever.”
Kelly agrees with Booker, as he views the waning diversity of Democratic candidates as an issue.
“He’s right. It sucks that it’s a bunch of white people up there, and mostly there’s not a lot of diversity. I mean, there’s two women up there and Mayor Pete is a gay man, but that’s really all we got, though,” Kelly said.
Booker now plans to run for re-election to his U.S. Senate seat in 2020.
The debate stage without diversity described by Booker was almost exactly what was on display the following day, Jan. 14, for the eighth Democratic National Debate in Des Moines, Iowa. All six of the candidates at the debate were white, as Yang failed to qualify. The candidates included Warren, former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and businessman Tom Steyer.
Questions from the debate addressed U. S. military intervention in the Middle East and North Korea, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) trade bill which passed on Jan. 16 after the debate, Medicare for all and drug pricing, the climate crisis and the impending Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.
The debate also addressed a rumor that Sanders alleged to Warren that a woman could not defeat Donald Trump in the presidential election. Sanders vehemently denied ever saying or alleging this.
“Anybody who knows me knows that it’s incomprehensible that I would think that a woman could not be president [of[ the United States,” Sanders said. “Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by three million votes. How could anyone in a million years not believe that a woman could become president of the United States?”
Nevertheless, Warren disagreed with Sanders, and believed it was possible for a woman to defeat President Trump in the upcoming election.
“Look at the men on this stage. Collectively, they have lost 10 elections. The only people on this stage who have won every single election they’ve been in are the women: Amy [Klobuchar] and me,” Warren said.
Kelly watched the full debate, and preferred the smaller field of candidates because he was able to hear policy positions more effectively.
“I will say it’s nice that there are six candidates, unlike when we started out when there were two nights of ten [candidates],” Kelly said. “That was a little chaotic. It threw certain people against certain people. It kind of sucked, where you didn’t get to see Bernie and Joe Biden discuss their differences. And I think that’s what’s important about the debate.”
However, Kelly did take issue with the recent Sanders-Warren dispute taking centerstage.
“Honestly, CNN, they were just gagging them last night, especially with the whole Warren versus Bernie thing,” he said.
According to Kelly, it is time for the Democrats to put their differences aside to focus on beating President Trump in the presidential election.
“I think at this point, in general, it’s really important that Democrats unite. They’re going to win by having the whole group united, whether conservative Democrats [or] progressives. Everyone … needs to be on the same page.”
The next Democratic debate will be held in Las Vegas, Nevada on Friday, Feb. 7, four days after the Iowa Caucus.
Megan Dreher contributed reporting.