“Clearly the norms of family relationships have been changed dramatically,” he said. “You’ve seen people across this country being elected to offices with all different kinds of family situations, including the president, who has had three spouses. So I think a lot of that conventional thought on that doesn’t apply.”
It’s been more than 150 years since voters got behind a bachelor seeking the highest office in the land. In 1856, James Buchanan won the presidency without a partner (in fact, he vowed never to marry). He assigned first-lady duties to his niece. And in 1885, Grover Cleveland was elected without a wife (though he married soon after taking office).
But Booker is right that standards appear to have changed. Trump is not only divorced but is the first White House occupant to have a third wife and well-publicized alleged extramarital affairs with an adult-film star and a Playboy model. Even Vice President Pence, famous for his ultraconservative Christian values, is the second husband of the second lady.
There are signs, too, that Americans might be more open to a single president. More Americans are uncoupled than ever. According to the Pew Research Center, more than 4 in 10 adults in the United States live without a spouse or partner.
It’s possible the discomfort with Booker’s marital status goes deeper. Some of the questions about his marital status seem to spring from long-circulating rumors about his sexuality.
Booker has responded to inquiries differently over the years. But after the Inquirer reporter directly asked about his sexuality, Booker told him that if he were gay, he would live openly.
“I’m heterosexual,” he said. “Every candidate should run on their authentic self, tell their truth, and more importantly, or mostly importantly, talk about their vision for the country.
“I’m going to run on who I am, whether that’s running for reelection [to the Senate] or running for president,” he said.
Though it’s early in the campaign, Booker seems to have gained momentum. According to the latest CNN poll, he is among the top five potential Democratic presidential candidates receiving the most support out of 20 listed.