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The New Hampshire Democratic Party announced Thursday that the senator from New Jersey who unsuccessfully ran for his party’s 2020 presidential nomination will headline the Dec. 11 McIntyre-Shaheen and Eleanor Roosevelt Winter Extravaganza. The gala will help boost the state party’s coffers ahead of the 2022 midterms, when Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan and Reps. Annie Kuster and Chris Pappas will be running for reelection in the crucial general election battleground state.
While the announcement raised eyebrows regarding any future Booker White House run, Democratic strategists close to Booker’s orbit made it crystal clear that the senator’s return to the state that holds the first primary in the White House race is all about next year’s midterm elections and not about the 2024 presidential election.
With the Democrats hoping to hold onto their razor-thin House and Senate majorities in next year’s midterms amid a political climate and historical tailwinds that favor the GOP, Booker emphasized that “the road to protecting and expanding Democrats’ Congressional majorities runs through New Hampshire.”
“I’m looking forward to seeing some old friends, touting my colleagues’ record of delivering results for New Hampshire, and discussing the incredible progress President Joe Biden has made at building our economy back better than before,” Booker said in a statement.
And a Democrat involved in the discussions between the state party and Booker’s team told Fox News that the 2024 presidential election “never came up in the discussion, nor did anything beyond that.”
Booker, who’s known as a talented orator, is no stranger to New Hampshire. He campaigned in the state on behalf of President Obama and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, and has spoken a handful of times over the years at breakfasts hosted by the state’s Democratic delegation at national conventions.
The senator heavily concentrated his 2020 White House bid in New Hampshire, building up a formidable staff and focusing on the state’s tradition of retail politics. While his appearances at numerous house parties and town halls were well received in the Granite State, Booker didn’t resonate in national polling and struggled with fundraising. He ended his White House bid a month before New Hampshire’s February 2020 primary.
“Because of COVID, Cory Booker has never really been able to come back to New Hampshire,” Granite State-based Democratic consultant Jim Demers, who was a top Booker 2020 adviser, told Fox News. “He made a lot of friends and he’s wanted to come back and spend some time with people who he met in New Hampshire. This is a really great opportunity for him to do that.”
Demers also emphasized that Booker “made really close friendships with Reps. Chris Pappas and Annie Kuster (during his 2020 bid) and he has a really strong relationship with Maggie Hasson in the Senate. He really did want to come back up and lend a hand to the three of them as they run for reelection in 2022. That’s a big factor in why he’s coming to headline this event.”
A Democratic strategist in Booker’s orbit concurred, noting that the senator’s “focused on his work in the Senate and genuinely enjoys spending time with the people he met in New Hampshire during his presidential campaign.”
The strategist, who asked to remain anonymous to speak more freely, added that “down the road it wouldn’t surprise anybody if Sen. Booker decided to run for president again.”
But multiple people close to Booker say that another White House run will not happen in 2024.
There’s constant speculation whether President Biden will run for reelection in 2024. Biden, who turns 79 this weekend, made history last November when he became the oldest person ever elected president. If he campaigns for reelection in 2024 and wins, Biden would be 82 at his second inaugural and 86 at the end of his second term.
Asked in March at the first formal news conference of his presidency about his 2024 plans, Biden said, “My answer is yes. I plan on running for reelection. That’s my expectation.”
And pundits were trying to read the tea leaves regarding Biden’s visit Tuesday to New Hampshire, where he made his first stop in selling the sweeping infrastructure bill that he signed into law a day earlier.
If Biden doesn’t run for reelection, Vice President Kamala Harris – the first female and Black vice president in American history – would be considered the next in line as the party’s standard bearer in the 2024 election. Those close to Booker point to his strong working relationship with Harris during their time together in the Senate and say that he would never challenge her in 2024 if she runs for president.
But for Booker, next month’s trip to help New Hampshire Democrats in 2022 could possibly pay dividends way down the road, in 2028 or beyond.
“He’s stayed in touch. He’s always maintained his relationships. I know that a lot of people in New Hampshire still text him and call him. He’s just the kind of person who likes to maintain relationships. He’s a people person,” a Democratic consultant close to Booker told Fox News.
The consultant, who also asked for anonymity to speak more freely, added that “you never know if sometime in the future he decides to make another run.”