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Dec. 5, 2019, 7:32 p.m. EST

Booker campaign plots rebound in wake of Harris’s departure from race

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By Associated Press

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Booker is among several candidates who have quietly begun to reach out to Harris’ donors after her departure, according to a donor with direct knowledge of the outreach. The New York-based donor, who has worked with Booker in the past and had ties to the Harris campaign, reports early signs that Harris’ financial backers in the New York area are more inclined to move toward Joe Biden or Buttigieg. There is a concern, the donor said, that Booker’s consistent message of hope and unity simply doesn’t match the mood of the Democratic primary electorate or Democratic donors, who want a nominee who can take the fight to President Donald Trump.

The donor and person familiar with the staffing considerations spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.

Demissie said Booker has enough cash to keep his campaign afloat until the caucuses but warned that “if we want to keep growing our campaign, the answer is no, we need to be robustly funded headed into February.”

He also dismissed critiques of Booker’s message and said that if the senator received as much media attention as some of the top-tier contenders do, he’d be just as competitive.

“Our challenge has always been how do you grab that attention,” Demissie said.

There are some positive signs. Booker’s team said Wednesday was its biggest online fundraising day of the campaign.

But for some Booker supporters, it’s time for him to be more aggressive. Steve Phillips, a major Democratic donor and longtime Booker friend who ran a recently shuttered super PAC for the candidate, said the main challenge is convincing voters in the early states that Booker can beat Trump. Booker is facing skepticism, Phillips said, in part because he’s black.

“He does need to more explicitly tackle the elephant in the room, which is this electability argument,” he said.

Phillips, who is African American, said that Buttigieg is “subliminally, at least, tied to the picture of the candidate that voters would want.” He suggested that was behind some of Booker’s fundraising struggles — and that the candidate needs to confront those beliefs head-on.

To that effect, another pro-Booker super PAC unaffiliated with Phillips recently began airing a television ad in Iowa directly contrasting Booker’s experience with what they framed as Buttigieg’s lack thereof.

Philip Swibinski, a spokesman for the super PAC United We Win, said that the group sees an opening for Booker among moderates and that the organization has plans to launch ads focused on African American voters in South Carolina as well. The super PAC will hold onto some cash, however, so it can continue to support Booker beyond the debate qualification deadline.

Regardless of what happens in the coming days, Booker’s top aides said they still expect him to be in the race on Feb. 3, when Iowans make their choices at the first-in-the-nation caucuses.

“We want to be in this thing till people actually vote, and I think that’s what people want, too,” Demissie said. “We want to give the voters a chance to pick Cory Booker, and that means staying in this thing till February.”

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