Three items to consider when assessing Booker’s longer-term potential:
If Booker wins, he doesn’t do it with the Lautenberg family’s seal of approval.
Deference to Senator Lautenberg was not foremost on Booker’s mind as he plotted his political future. While Lautenberg was alive, Booker, who has served as mayor since 2006, announced he was exploring a primary bid. The news prompted the senior senator, who hadn’t yet made clear his intention to run or retire, to suggest one form of punishment.
"I have four children; I love each one of them," Lautenberg told The Philadelphia Inquirer. "I can't tell you that one of them wasn't occasionally disrespectful, so I gave them a spanking and everything was OK."
This summer, the Lautenberg family issued a statement endorsing one of Booker’s Democratic primary rivals, Rep. Frank Pallone (D).
“Frank Lautenberg followed three fundamental principles as New Jersey’s U.S. Senator: stay true to his progressive values, put New Jersey first, and be a workhorse, not a show horse," the Lautenberg family said in a statement backing Representative Pallone.
Now, intraparty sour grapes don’t typically register for voters as they weigh which candidate to support. And there are plenty of politicians in both parties who decline to politely wait their turn before launching bids (again, President Obama comes to mind). But Booker’s maneuvering does reflect something of his ability to play nice, or not. And the Senate is a place where those with long futures learn to build allegiances and be good colleagues, both within their own party and across the aisle.
But perhaps Booker wouldn’t be interested in a long tenure in the Senate. Consider Sen. Ted Cruz, the freshman Republican from Texas. He has been reprimanded by his own party leaders for not playing by the chamber’s rules and for lacking decorum. And yet, he’s well on his way to launching a 2016 White House campaign.