CEDAR RAPIDS — He denied shooting for a “full Grassley,” but New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker hit four of Iowa’s most populous counties in a visit in support of Democrats on the Nov. 6 ballot.
“We’ve done a lot of them, but nowhere near all” 99 counties, Booker said Tuesday morning before heading to The Eastern Iowa Airport to catch a flight to Washington and a Senate vote.
“It felt like it,” one of his Senate staffers quipped about the four-day swing that included stops in Polk, Linn, Scott, Johnson, Dallas and Boone counties.
Booker, 49, who is headed to Florida and Ohio — also election battleground states — tried to tamp down 2020 presidential campaign speculation about his Iowa visit. He was the keynote speaker at the Iowa Democratic Party’s Fall Gala on Saturday night in Des Moines and campaigned for “a few dozen people” before leaving.
Republicans saw Booker’s extended stay as a “not-so-subtle 2020 campaign” visit.
“But no matter how much time he spends in the Hawkeye state, he will never convince voters that his platform of government-run health care and higher taxes aligns with their values,” Republican National Committee spokeswoman Christiana Purves said. “Iowans will see through his dangerous rhetoric and vote for candidates that care about the issues that matter most to them, not candidates desperate to be seen with a presidential wannabe.”
Booker talked about his visit as a much-needed gift after he and other Democrats were on the losing end of the battle over Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court.
“I came from a heart-hurting, spirit-crushing vote on the Senate floor,” he said, “and I came here and got so much fellowship, so much goodness, kindness and so much encouragement,” he said.
In remarks to about 200 people at the West Side Democratic campaign office in Cedar Rapids, which sounded like a stump speech for a candidate in Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses, Booker offered encouragement to campaign staffers and volunteers.
His visit to Iowa, he said, has been a “cathartic, healing moment.”
“What was most inspiring as I traveled throughout Iowa was that everyone was saying we had a defeat, but we are not defeated. We got knocked down, but we’re not knocked out,” Booker said before quote Maya Angelou’s “but like dust, I rise.”
In the wake of the Supreme Court vote, Democrats have a moment, “a moral moment in America ... not about left or right (but) about right or wrong.”
Democrats, he said, will be defined by how they respond to this defeat.
“My dad taught me that in life bad things happen, but you got to get back up,” Booker said. “My parents taught me that in life, it’s what you stand for, what you fight for.
“Right now, the difference between winning and losing in November is not about the candidates we have,” he said. “It’s about our willingness to stand up and work.”
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