Will Cory Booker's Bain Capital defense backfire?
Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s appearance on Sunday’s Meet the Press was anything but routine. The surrogate for President Obama’s re-election campaign was mostly a message championing the president’s tax cuts for small businesses and the middle class that have been beneficial to his constituents in Newark.
But everything Mayor Booker said on Sunday will be forgotten except for one thing: his comment that the Obama campaign’s attack on Mitt Romney’s record at Bain capital is “nauseating.”
In a seemingly unscripted and off message moment, Booker said of the use of Bain Capital to attack Romney.
“I have to just say from a very personal level, I’m not about to sit here and indict private equity. To me, it’s just we’re getting to a ridiculous point in America. Especially that I know I live in a state where pension funds, unions and other people invest in companies like Bain Capital. If you look at the totality of Bain Capital’s record, they’ve done a lot to support businesses, to grow businesses. And this, to me — I’m very uncomfortable with…This kind of stuff is nauseating to me on both sides. It’s nauseating to the American public. Enough is enough. Stop attacking private equity, stop attacking Jeremiah Wright. This stuff has got to stop, because what it does is it undermines, to me, what this country should be focused on. It’s a distraction from the real issues. It’s either going to be a small campaign about this crap or it’s going to be a big campaign, in my opinion, about the issues that the American public cares about.”
To the average Obama supporter with a Twitter account, Mayor Booker nearly painted himself a traitor Sunday morning. His press outside of the tri-state area has been mostly positive, with videos of him shoveling Newark’s snow covered streets himself and most recently his real life heroics, saving his neighbor from a fire.
Mayor Booker certainly wasn’t expecting the barrage of responses from Obama supporters calling him out for stepping all over the campaign’s official message. It was this week that the campaign officially launched Romney Economics, a website focusing on Romney’s tenure at Bain and the closure of GST Steel in Kansas City.
What Obama’s Twitter army may be overlooking however is that Booker was on message; it’s just that on this particular issue his own message differs from the president’s. It’s no secret that Booker’s rise to the top has been funded by the powerful and well-to-do. He’s very close to billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg and has close personal ties to Wall Street.
Booker also has a future beyond Newark City Hall and a race on the state level and beyond are funded primarily by rich donors. Booker stepped all over the Obama campaign’s message because staying on message and attacking venture capitalism damages his future prospects.
Mayor Booker has since taken to his YouTube page to “clarify” his remarks on Meet the Press. In the video, Booker highlights many of the president’s accomplishments and goes on to say, “I made it clear on ‘Meet the Press this morning how I feel President Barack Obama has done such a strong job as leader of our nation, and more than deserves re-election…I also professed, on Meet the Press, my profound frustration with the kind of campaigning that I think that is becoming too much of the norm in our nation — which is generally negative campaigning. And this campaigning is about to become an avalanche, and in many ways, I believe, could potentially risk muting out the important voices of the candidates themselves talking about the issues that matter,” he added, referencing the millions spent by outside super PACs on campaign advertising.
Booker concluded by backtracking a bit on his criticism of the Bain line of attack saying, “Let me be clear: Mitt Romney has made his business record a centerpiece of his campaign…and therefore, it is reasonable — and in fact, I encourage it for the Obama campaign — to examine that record and to discuss it. I have no problem with that.”
Booker’s muddying of the Obama campaign’s message will certainly be used by Republicans to counter the Bain attacks. The RNC is already out with a press release highlighting Booker’s comments and Senator John McCain praised Booker’s “straight talk” on Twitter.
By stepping on the official message, Booker has handed a gift to the opposition, and yet for Booker’s own personal political ambitions, his strategic “misstep” could pay off for him in future races.
Follow Zerlina Maxwell on Twitter at @zerlinamaxwell