WASHINGTON — Democrat Sen. Cory Booker is ending his presidential campaign, he announced Monday morning, and will seek re-election to the U.S. Senate.
The announcement, just weeks before Iowa holds the first formal contest in the Democratic primary, ends a presidential bid that never caught fire, despite some strong responses at campaign events to Booker’s promises of healing and unity.
Booker, a senator from New Jersey, failed to gain traction in national polls or in any of the key early states, and has missed the qualifications for two consecutive Democratic debates, one in December and another set to take place without him Tuesday night. He has trailed the top candidates in fund-raising and hasn’t been able to pull in significant support from black voters, whom his campaign strategy heavily relied on.
“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 in a post on Medium and a text to supporters. “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. So I’ve chosen to suspend my campaign now, take care of my wonderful staff, and give you time to consider the other strong choices in the field.”
Booker is one of several Democratic senators contending for the nomination likely to be pulled off the campaign trail for an impeachment trial expected to begin soon.
Booker’s message of togetherness and uplift, built around his personal story as someone whose parents overcame housing discrimination with the help of a white lawyer inspired by the Civil Rights movement, consistently won huge cheers at major Democratic events, and many voters said they liked Booker.
But at a time of such political strife, few seemed to see his message as the right one for the moment, or Booker as a figure who was singularly qualified to beat President Donald Trump. His poll numbers never budged beyond the low single digits, despite several well-received debate performances and his rousing speeches.
He stood behind those themes in his message Monday morning.
“I got in the race for president because I believed to my core that the answer to the common pain Americans are feeling right now, the answer to Donald Trump’s hatred and division, is to reignite our spirit of common purpose to take on our biggest challenges and build a more just and fair country for everyone,” he wrote. “I’ve always believed that. I still believe that. 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.”
Booker had long hoped that he could perform well enough in the early states to then rally in South Carolina, where roughly 60 percent of the Democratic electorate is black, but he never gained much support in any of those states as African American voters have largely lined up behind former vice president Joe Biden, and haven’t wavered.
Booker, who was a finalist to be Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential nominee in 2016, will now seek a second full term as a senator from New Jersey, a strongly Democratic state where he is unlikely to face significant challenges in the primary or general elections.