Cory Booker: Sink-or-swim fundraising deadline ‘a moment of incredible, radical transparency’

In a visit to the University of Iowa campus Monday, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., hopes to gain traction in Iowa four months out from caucuses after reaching a major fundraising goal at the end of the third quarter.


Wyatt Dlouhy

Sen.Cory Booker, D-N.J., speaks to an audience during a forum at the Iowa Memorial Union on Monday, Oct. 7, 2019.

Julia Shanahan, Assistant Politics Editor

After reaching a major fundraising goal, presidential hopeful Cory Booker told The Daily Iowan in an interview that asking people for money is the most difficult part of the campaign.

“It was a moment of incredible, radical transparency,” Booker said. “We decided to tell people, ‘we need help, or else we’re going to have a hard time building a campaign that can win.’”

During the last ten days of September, Booker announced he would drop out of the race if his campaign did not raise $1.7 million by the end of the quarter. After heavy outreach efforts from the campaign, Booker raised $2.1 million from 46,000 donors. He raised more than $6 million in the third quarter — the most he’s fundraised so far in a single quarter.

In his swing through Iowa, Booker is hoping to energize caucusgoers in a state where he is polling at 3 percent. He said that with this fundraising momentum, his campaign is going to add more field offices in early-voting states and expand their Iowa staff. Booker currently has an estimated 50 Iowa staff members, which remains the same from mid-August. 

“The Iowa staff is the first among the contests, and it’s going to be the one that gets the most resources,” Booker said, referring to Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucus status. 

At the Iowa Memorial Union on Monday, Booker gave a familiar speech addressing socioeconomic inequality and President Trump’s divisive rhetoric.

RELATED: 2020 campaigning ramps up on UI campus in fall semester

“Can’t we have bigger aspirations than [beating Donald Trump],” Booker said at the Iowa Memorial Union on Monday. “Beating Donald Trump is the floor, not the ceiling.”. 

The New Jersey Senator said this election is a “moral moment” for the U.S. and pointed to rampant gun violence and the looming issue of climate change. 

“I’m gonna ask more from you than any president has ever asked from you in your life,” Booker said.

Booker has often talked about racial disparities throughout the country and has highlighted criminal-justice reform and gun control as ways to close socioeconomic gaps.

RELATED: Sen. Cory Booker advocates for racial equality in Iowa City

Booker makes his stump speeches personable, and does not ever follow a set script. He tells various stories about being the mayor of Newark, New Jersey, a city with a high crime rate. He also talks a lot about him and his family’s upbringing.

He told the DI that even if a voter likes his policies, he wants to focus on his authenticity and ensure people feel connected.

“Look, the ideas that candidates have are really important, but the ideas that separate us in the Democratic stage are small compared to what we’re running against and who we’re running against,” Booker told the DI.  

Iowa City residents and long-time friends, Pamela Terrill, Karla Kamal, and Deb Cobb, said Booker is among their top five candidates, and that they could picture him among the top three tickets out of the February caucuses. They said he gets right down to the point and agreed that they like his energy.

Despite Booker’s low polling numbers, Kamal pointed to Vermont independent Senator Bernie Sander’s recent heart attack, and said we don’t know what will happen to the other candidates ahead of the caucuses. The Iowa caucuses are set for Feb. 3, about four months from Booker’s Monday speech.

“There’s just a lot of time between now and then,” Kamal said.