White House hopeful Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) worked to cast himself as an alternative to Democratic front-runner Joe Biden, saying the already-crowded 2020 primary field does not need more candidates for voters to find their nominee.
Speaking in Washington at the National Press Club on Wednesday, Booker pushed back against recent news articles revealing that hand-wringing Democrats are trying to recruit new candidates such as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) into the race amid frustration with the current primary crowd.
“Look, I get it. I am anxious to get Donald Trump out of office,” Booker said. “But this is the most historically diverse Democratic field in history.”
“Democrats don’t need more candidates to enter this primary. We have great candidates already,” he added. “We need the right candidate to emerge from this primary to unite our party and defeat Donald Trump. And I’m confident I’m that candidate.”
While long seen as a rising star within the Democratic Party, Booker has stagnated in the middle of the primary field since his campaign launch, consistently polling behind roughly five other candidates and lagging in fundraising.
However, the New Jersey senator pointed to slipping poll numbers and lackluster fundraising hauls for former Vice President Biden, one of the field’s front-runners, as evidence that the primary pack is set for a shake-up.
“As Vice President Biden’s campaign shows growing signs of weakness, people are fretting about the current front-runners,” Booker said. “So to those Democrats who are looking for an alternative right now, I want to make the case today very directly: Look no further.”
“I’m getting calls from people who are Biden supporters who now want to hedge their bet and support somebody that they think can actually win,” he added later during a Q&A session.
Booker, who has tried to thread the needle along ideological fissures within the Democratic Party, sought Wednesday to cast himself as a candidate who can appeal to both progressives and moderates while also turning out key voting demographics that Democrats will need to unseat President Trump.
“I can and have excited a diverse coalition of voters. I can and have united progressives and moderates,” he said.
“What we need to understand right now as a party is that every successful struggle for justice in America — not to mention every winning Democratic coalition in modern times — has included the active participation and engagement of black people,” Booker added. “That’s what it will take to win next spring and then to beat Donald Trump in the fall. I’m prepared to do that, I’m building a campaign to do that and I’m the only one in this race who has proven I can do that.”
Booker will face an uphill battle as he tries to glean support for his teetering campaign. He drew just 1 percent support nationally in a CNN poll released Wednesday, while Biden showed a commanding lead at 34 percent.
However, the New Jersey Democrat, who has promoted a message of love and unity in his campaign, hinted he would not go on the attack to improve his poll numbers.
“Tearing your fellow Democrats down may get you a temporary boost in the polls,” Booker said, “but it’s not doing anything to help us choose the nominee who will beat Donald Trump and could weaken our ultimate nominee.”
James Jarvis contributed to this report.