Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey has declined to confirm whether he plans to mount a campaign for the 2020 presidential election. The junior senator, who has cultivated a large following on social media, may not be announcing a presidential campaign just yet, but he has been signaling ambitions for higher office through touring the country for speaking engagements and moderating his more unpopular positions.
On July 4, Booker was evasive on 2020 during an interview with the CNN podcast "The Axe Files."
"I don't know what the future's going to bring," Booker said of any potential presidential campaign. "I'm not making predictions, but I want to unleash the fullness of who I am right now, and I want to call out injustice where I see it."
The New Jersey senator asserted that lawmakers who obsess over the Oval Office don't have the focus to execute their jobs well, making it harder for them to gain momentum when they enter the presidential arena.
"I think that politicians make a terrible mistake if they're thinking about aspirations for another office because I think it undermines their integrity where they are," Booker continued. He added "If I start thinking about the future like that or engaging in that stuff ... I think it would make me a lesser of a senator."
Booker concluded that he was prepared to take policy positions that would not be advantageous for a presidential hopeful.
"I'm a guy that's going to criticize policies that, frankly, in a lot of states that are important for presidential elections would find that very much of a threat," Booker concluded. "My loyalty is to the position I'm in right now."
Booker, a former mayor of Newark, was elected to the Senate after a special election in October 2013. He was subsequently elected to a full term in November 2014, according to The Daily Beast.
On the night of that victory, he took to social media to personally thank individual voters who cast a ballot for him, pledging to "be the most responsive Senator ever."
The New Jersey senator boasts 3.1 million Twitter followers and has raised his national profile through his hands-on approach to social media.
"[Booker] engages in the spirit of social media, which is just checking in with your community and letting you know what he's doing that day," Adam Jentleson, a former deputy chief of staff to the retired Democratic Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, told Philly.com.
Jentleson praised Booker as "one of the best messengers that party has right now."
On June 10, Booker articulated an optimistic view of the Democratic Party during the annual Connecticut Democratic Progress Dinner. The speaking slot was one of many for Booker nationwide, suggesting a desire to be seen as a party leader.
"We're the party that cares just as... much about the people who sit down for a nice dinner as the people in the kitchen who are going to be cleaning up afterward," Booker told the audience, according to the Hartford Courant. "We're the party of we, and not the party of me."
Booker is not without his detractors. On Jan. 12, the New Jersey senator drew condemnation from progressives after voting against legislation designed to allow cheaper prescription drugs from other countries to be imported into the U.S. Critics were quick to point out that Booker received heavy financial backing from New Jersey's pharmaceutical industry.
On Feb. 28, Booker reversed course by co-sponsoring a prescription drug-reimportation bill with independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, HuffPost reports.
On June 30, Booker revealed that he had temporarily discontinued fundraising from pharmaceutical companies.
"Well, we put a pause on even receiving contributions from pharma companies because it arouses so much criticism and just stopped taking it," Booker told NPR. "And the other thing that we're trying to do which I'm very proud of is just focus on individual contributions from people around the country."
Whether or not Booker's decision was politically calculated, disentangling himself from the pharmaceutical industry would undeniably help his chances to win a Democratic primary in 2020.