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Cory Booker quits presidential race, leaving an even more white Democratic field

Evan Halper, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- Cory Booker brought a blend of uplifting eloquence and experience organizing on the streets to his campaign in which he sometimes drew comparisons to Barack Obama, but neither quality could carry him into the top tier of the presidential race. Short on cash and floundering in the polls, Booker ended his White House bid on Monday.

"It's with a full heart that I share this news -- I'm suspending my campaign for president," Booker tweeted. "To my team, supporters, and everyone who gave me a shot -- thank you. I am so proud of what we built, and I feel nothing but faith in what we can accomplish together."

The exit from the race by yet another prominent black lawmaker leaves what was once a historically diverse Democratic field of presidential candidates increasingly white and old. The remaining minority candidates in the race, only one of whom is African American, all face low single-digit polling numbers with little time to break out of the pack before voting begins.

That reality has sparked discomfort and soul-searching among party activists at a time when racial justice is central to the Democratic agenda and inspiring minority voters crucial to their hopes of retaking the White House. Three out of four of the top-tier candidates dominating the race are now whites in their 70s.

Although the New Jersey senator drew praise for his oratorical skills and policy acumen, his brand of politics, which melded progressive policies with frequent calls for unity, seemed not to match the mood of either wing of the party.

Booker's campaign theme of universal love -- a promise to transcend dispiriting partisan politics and the harsh tone of the Trump era -- didn't catch fire with voters on the left who have flocked to Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who both promise a fight. More centrist voters have moved toward former Vice President Joe Biden and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who offer more moderate policies and may appear less risky to some voters who fear a black candidate would lose to President Trump.

 

Biden's strong support among black voters, especially older ones, also proved a significant stumbling block for Booker.

Booker brought to the race a storied biography as the mayor of Newark, N.J., who took up residence in the city's housing projects and took down a corrupt administration in his path to City Hall -- a quest captured in the critically acclaimed documentary "Street Fight."

But in the current campaign, even that life story was often overshadowed by that of another black candidate in the race, California Sen. Kamala Harris, the child of immigrants from India and Jamaica who had hoped to become the first black woman president.

The New Jersey senator fell victim to some of the same strategic miscalculations as Harris, who dropped out of the race in early December.

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