Cory Booker drops out: 'I've made the hard decision to suspend my campaign for president'

Hunter Walker White House Correspondent

WASHINGTON — Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., is suspending his presidential campaign, he announced in an email to supporters on Monday. Booker said multiple factors had contributed to his conclusion that he had no chance to win the Democratic nomination. 

“It was a difficult decision to make, but I got in this race to win, and I’ve always said I wouldn’t continue if there was no longer a path to victory,” Booker wrote. “Our campaign has reached the point where we need more money to scale up and continue building a campaign that can win — money we don’t have, and money that is harder to raise because I won’t be on the next debate stage and because the urgent business of impeachment will rightly be keeping me in Washington.”  

Booker is the first candidate to leave the race who specifically cited the impending impeachment trial as an issue. In recent weeks, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi held back the articles of impeachment from the Senate, delaying the start of the trial, it has become apparent that the senators in the Democratic race would be handicapped by the need to attend the proceedings in Washington during the crucial final days of campaigning before the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 3.

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Sen. Cory Booker at a campaign event in New York City in November. (Photo: Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
Sen. Cory Booker at a campaign event in New York City in November. (Photo: Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

Like some of the other candidates, Booker faced hurdles imposed by the Democratic National Committee’s debate qualification rules, which set minimum requirements for polling and fundraising. He was not onstage for the most recent debate in December and did not qualify for the one on Tuesday evening in Iowa. Booker’s departure leaves just three candidates of color in the Democratic field: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and businessman Andrew Yang. 

Booker came into the race with a high profile and was widely expected to be a leading candidate. As the former mayor of Newark, N.J., he earned national attention for hands-on heroics that were amplified by his pioneering use of social media. Booker was elected to the Senate in 2013 and described his role as a civil rights activist in the halls of Congress. He has focused on issues of “justice” including economic inequality, disparate environmental conditions in poorer parts of the country, and criminal justice reform. He was a prominent supporter of the bipartisan criminal justice reform legislation that was signed into law in late 2018. 

In his letter to supporters, Booker said he will run for reelection to the Senate this year. 

“I will be doing everything in my power to elect the eventual Democratic nominee for president, whomever that may be, and to elect great Democrats to the Senate and up and down the ballot,” he wrote. 

Booker at an event in Fort Dodge, Iowa, on Dec. 20. (Photo: Brenna Norman/Reuters)
Booker at an event in Fort Dodge, Iowa, on Dec. 20. (Photo: Brenna Norman/Reuters)

Booker’s campaign focused on a positive message of rising above differences and addressing the “common pain” shared by many Americans. He unveiled a suite of policies including an ambitious “environmental justice” agenda and a “baby bonds” program that would reduce the racial wealth gap by providing grants to Americans at birth. In the letter announcing his decision to suspend his White House bid, he expressed pride in the policies he pushed for on the trail, and in the tenor of his campaign.

“I’m proud of the ideas we brought to this Democratic primary and, more importantly, the values we championed throughout — that the only way we make progress is by bringing people together — even when we were told that our approach couldn’t win,” Booker wrote. 

However, despite the initial buzz and a strong ground game, Booker and his positive message failed to gain traction in a primary race that seems to have been defined by larger ideological debates within the Democratic Party. During the final weeks of his campaign, Booker and his team focused on Iowa, and there were some indications in recent polls that he had the potential to have a surprisingly strong finish there. However, missing the debates and the prospect of being stuck in Washington for the impeachment trial made the prospect of a Hawkeye State shocker increasingly unlikely.

In his letter, Booker indicated he didn’t regret his positive approach.

“I’m proud I never compromised my faith in these principles during this campaign to score political points or tear down others. And maybe I’m stubborn, but I’ll never abandon my faith in what we can accomplish when we join together,” he wrote. 

Booker concluded his letter to supporters calling this race “the most important election of our lifetimes,” and he issued a final call for Democrats to take the high road as they seek to defeat President Trump. 

“We have to beat Donald Trump ... but beating Trump is the floor, not the ceiling,” he wrote, adding, “We may have not reached our ultimate goal, but over the last year I’ve had the pleasure of meeting so many incredible, inspiring, engaged people all over this country, and I am more confident now than ever that together we will rise.” 

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