4:39 p.m. October 13, 2013

Cory Booker: It's Not Looking Good

We're just a few days from NJ's special Senate election pitting Dem huckster Cory Booker vs Republican Koch guber Steve Lonegan. And it's not looking so good for Booker…

Despite every possible advantage, the man's been having a real tough time maintaining a comfortable victory margin in the polls. The latest stats show him barely squeaking by with a 12 or 13 percent lead.

Booker was supposed to be the next prog hope, a hipper and more populist version of President Obama who'd take New Jersey voters by storm and crash through the gates of victory by a huge margin. Instead, he's looking more and more like a dud. And that's freaking the hell out of his backers.

Cory Booker had everything lined up in his favor: Positively glowing national press coverage; backing from Hollywood celebrities like Matt Daemon and Oprah Winfrey, and billionaire Democrats like Mayor Bloomberg; and campaign coffers that were overflowing with cash… hell, he's out-fundraised his Republican opponent by a factor of ten-to-one.

New Jersey hasn't elected a Republican Senator since 1972. And his opponent, Steve Lonegan, is extreme even for a Republican: a bible-thumping Koch toady who had served as New Jersey's director of Americans for Prosperity, a free-market advocacy group founded by America's scariest billionaire bros Charles and David Koch. Now Lonegan was running against Booker on a platform of free markets and biblical sharia law, including the total criminalization of abortion even in cases of rape.

It should'a been a cakewalk.

“This should be a 20-point lead and not anything less than that,” Patrick Murray, of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, told the New York Times. Instead, Booker's barely staying out of the single digits.

Booker's flaccid campaign has started to seriously worry his backers. Such a tiny lead offered no guarantee that Booker will win, especially if the Kochs decide to boost Lonegan with a last-minute PR campaign. What makes everything even dicier for Booker: This is a special Senate election and voter turnout is probably going to be dismally low. If Dem voters don't turn out in large numbers, there's a chance that Booker might even lose this thing.

To prevent that from happening, billionaire New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, a longtime Booker booster and donor, has just injected an emergency $1 million into the race. Here's the NYT:

As his allies move to shore up what was supposed to be a painless path to Congress, the biggest and wealthiest of them, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, will start spending more than $1 million on Monday to broadcast television commercials on Mr. Booker’s behalf, a vast sum to pour into a single candidacy.

What the hell happened?

The New York Times, which has always been a part of the Booker booster club, seemed baffled and at a loss. The best explanation its political reporters could come up blamed their man's poor performance on a recent string of bungled tweets and media gaffs. What brought Booker down, says the paper, is that "he playfully told a stripper that he loved her during a private chat on Twitter and he has battled reports, which he denies, that he exaggerated stories about down-and-out residents he had met in Newark."

No doubt, Booker's tendency to exaggerate and invent stories put a dent in his campaign (although, his sweet G Rated stripper tweets may actually have helped boost his approval ratings with his key demographic: women voters), but these minor media scandals don't even come close to explaining his lack of appeal to New Jersey voters.

Booker's unpopularity with voters was on clear display three years ago, during Booker's reelection campaign as Newark mayor. In 2006 Booker was an untested young black politician running for Newark mayor. He promised hope and revitalization to a poor city that was hurting even in the midst of the biggest financial bubble in the history of the United States. And Booker won Newark's trust: he killed the opposition and got elected with over 70 percent of the vote. Four years later, that trust all but evaporated.

In 2010, Booker amassed $7.5 million for his reelection campaign — thirty times more than his opponent, a former prosecutor and municipal judge, who raised only $240,000. Just like today, Booker lined up support from a-listers like Michael Bloomberg, David Geffen, Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg. But even with all that money, media access and star power descending on a tiny, impoverished city of less than 300,000, Booker barely managed to hold on to his seat, getting only 59 percent of the vote.

That race was a spectacular disgrace, and it's been whitewashed from Booker's official history...

Why did the city turn on Booker so quickly? Well, that's simple: Residents — and especially African-Americans residents — felt the whip of Booker's free-market reforms. See, as soon as Booker became mayor in 2006, he pushed for privatizing garbage and sanitation services, battled city's public sector unions, laid off municipal workers, tried outsourcing public education to private contractors and introduced New York-style "broken windows" and "stop and frisk" policing tactics — and he pushed these policies even harder after the economy collapsed.

That might have earned Booker the respect of rightwing luminaries like Mort Zukerman, whose rightwing News & World Report praised Booker’s efforts to reform Newark with a "team of experienced technocrats." But it didn't resonate with voters.

Booker could get away with his smooth neoliberal privatization/deregulation reform babble before the crash. But by the time his reelection rolled around, people no longer fell for the free-market voodoo so easily.

An internal poll conducted by Obama's people showed that support for Booker had already started to crater in 2008. It was lowest among African-Americans, especially among black single mothers, 44 percent of whom disagreed with Booker's politics. Black single mothers made up eight percent of the city's voting population. It was Newark's white voters that loved Booker the most: 85 percent of them liked his politics and thought he was bringing progress to city.

Rahaman Muhammad, head of the SEIU Local 617 in Newark, told The Root in 2010: "Despite the fact that he won 40 percent of the black vote, Cory does have a problem with blacks in this city. Cory's secret hasn't got out yet. Most black people outside of Newark think he is beloved by blacks inside the city."

That was in 2010. Three years later, Cory Booker's secret is still safe with the New York Times. The paper endorsed Booker August, hailing him as a progressive champion of minorities and the dispossessed, a man who "will be able to use his political star status to fight for the neglected, the powerless, people who are working and people who need to work in New Jersey and nationally."

Here's something else you won't read in the New York Times, despite their recent report on how the Koch brothers bankrolled the Republians' government shutdown campaign. Booker might be a Democrat running against a Koch Republican, but no matter if he wins or loses, the Kochs will still come out on top. As retired African-American Harvard professor Martin Kilson put it: "Booker is a 'Black Trojan Horse' for the Republican rightwing."

If you're a New Jersey voter and don't know the weird influences that have made Cory Booker the man he is today, you still have a few days to learn more. That's why NSFWCORP has unlocked my recent print feature "The Neocon, The Messiah, and Cory Booker" for free on the Kindle store between now and the election.