There is no question, Cory Booker, the Mayor of Newark, New Jersey, is a rising (more like sky rocketing) star in the Democratic Party. The Ivy League, Rhodes Scholar, All American football player’s résumé sounds like a combination of your English professor and your neighborhood volunteer fireman. Not only did he recently rescue his elderly neighbor from a fiery inferno, but he also aides his local police department by personally patrolling the streets of Newark at night.He also showed real political guts when he took on the local Democratic establishment first as a councilman and then as mayor. Now, he may very well be the most popular public official in the United States. So with both of the major political parties having all but decided who will be their nominees in 2012, it is never too early to predict who will be the Democratic presidential nominee in 2016 — and Cory Booker could be it.
In order to speculate how Mayor Booker could position himself well for the national stage, it is advantageous for us to examine how the last few successful presidential candidates did it. In 2008, Barack Obama was a freshman senator from Illinois. This office allowed him to learn how Washington works, and gave him access to key lobbyists and bigwig donors inside the beltway. Booker’s route may lie with the 2014 New Jersey Senate race. Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) is currently the oldest senator (88 years-old) and it is reasonable to assume that Lautenberg will probably be retiring in 2014, (or at least be vulnerable to primary opposition due to his age), leaving a relatively safe seat for Booker.
Or, Cory Booker could take the George W. Bush route. In the 90's, Governor Bush built up his national reputation as a competent and politically astute Governor of Texas. New Jersey is one of those odd states that holds their gubernatorial elections in off years, and the Democratic nomination spot is wide-open to take on GOP Governor Chris Christie in 2013. The Bush-route might be the better route for Booker to take if he has national office aspirations, but it is far more risky than a 2014 senate race. It is a better route because the American people tend to prefer governors when they vote for national office (see 2000, 1992, 1980, and 1976), over senators (President Obama is only the second sitting senator to win the nation’s highest office since 1960). That said, running for overnor is riskier because recent reports show Governor Christie’s approval rating is at an all-time high.
Win or lose, the Democratic Party will be looking for a new gonfalonier in 2016. The prospective field is already relatively weak with possible candidates including Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo (the prospective frontrunner) and Maryland’s Chief Executive Martin O’Malley, but Cory Booker could do quite a bit to shake up this race should he decide to run or accept a running mate position. However, in order for Booker to continue to move up the greasy poll, he will need to seriously consider making a substantive move either to become senator or governor. Mayor of Newark is a great title, but Americans usually expect more from their presidential candidates than just being a mayor (or even member of the House of Representatives). But if we have learned anything about Mayor Booker from studying his career, you never quite know what he will do next – but it should be exciting.