The Washington Post

Cory Booker: Man of mystery

Barring a major surprise, Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D) is set to cruise to victory in October's Senate special election, spurring many questions in recent weeks about what kind of senator he would be.

It remains a mystery, notes The Washington Post's Jason Horowitz, in a fantastic profile of Booker that lays bare the mayor's ambition, loquaciousness, and the uncertainty that surrounds his future in Washington. (It even offers a peek at his stand-up comedy stylings.) Writes Horowitz:

Booker, a husky vegetarian who would be the only black Democrat in the Senate, is draining Splenda-sweetened coffee at a Greek diner in Union, just outside of Newark. He talks a lot about cynicism, calling it, “the most cognitively debilitating state of being” and declaring that “my whole life has been about confronting cynicism.” The point is that in a cynical world and a paralyzed Washington, Cory Booker is going to be different. He is going to change things.

Just don’t ask what, or how.

It is something of a mystery what kind of a senator Booker will try to be. Conservatives fear he will be a liberal lion. Liberals fear a Trojan horse for Wall Street and Silicon Valley interests. His detractors see him as an insatiable political animal who, in pursuit of his own national prospects, is willing to compromise on Democratic ideals and continue boosting his mutually beneficial relationship with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who is a potential Republican presidential nominee. Booker is cagey about whether he aspires to be the next Sen. Ted Kennedy, but there is no doubt that he would be the chamber’s Senator TED Talk.

Our bet has been that Booker becomes the highest-profile Democratic senator. He's not shy (something that comes through loud and clear in Horowitz's story), already has a big online following and appears eager and ambitious. And by living in Anacostia (which seems a likely bet), Booker will attract attention off the bat for his life outside the Senate chamber.

These are all the ingredients of someone looking to make an immediate impact. Consider what Booker told Horowitz:

"In Washington, I just want to be a senator who finds a way to drive change and not figure out a way to conform.”

What's unclear is where Booker will come down in certain policy debates, how much he will be willing to compromise, and which issues he will focus on.

These are all questions that will start to become clearer this fall, barring a miracle upset by Republican Steve Lonegan.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.

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