Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, a rising star in the Democratic Party, will visit New Hampshire today to campaign for President Obama in an attempt to reinvigorate the excitement young people felt for Obama in 2008.
“When it comes to the center and mainstream, especially the next generation, Obama is the first president that represents the issues and ideals of the millennial generation,’’ Booker said in a phone interview.
Booker, 42, will speak to students at Saint Anselm College, Plymouth State University, and the University of New Hampshire.
In 2008, Obama received his strongest support from voters age 18 to 29, with two-thirds of those voters choosing Obama over Republican John McCain, according to CIRCLE, a center focused on political engagement among young Americans.
But facing a high unemployment rate and student loan debt, many young voters are growing increasingly disillusioned.
Booker will make the case that Obama has made throughout his presidency: The president inherited a “crisis that was not of his making,’’ and worked to fix it. Booker said Obama inherited a freefalling economy, a crumbling banking industry, a shrinking auto industry, and two wars.
“He found ways to stabilize the auto industry, save the banking industry, pull us out of one of the wars . . . to begin to move us from recession to recovery,’’ Booker said.
With the Republican presidential candidates pledging to repeal Obama’s health care legislation, Booker will focus on its benefits to young people - specifically, provisions that young adults must be allowed to remain on their parents’ health insurance until age 26.
On social issues, an area that has not been central to the campaign so far, but where college students tend to be more progressive, Booker will focus on Obama’s decision to end the ban on openly gay service members in the military, and on Obama’s Supreme Court appointees.
There are rumors that Booker is considering a run against Governor Chris Christie, a Republican. Christie was in New Hampshire recently stumping for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. But Booker declined to criticize Christie or his campaign choice.
Booker said it is a “tribute to New Jersey’’ that two state politicians are traveling as presidential surrogates. “I don’t agree with Governor Christie on presidential politics,’’ Booker said. “He and I here at home have found ways to belie the national trend and work together on substantive issues and ideas.’’
Asked whether he was considering a gubernatorial run, Booker said he would not predict the future. “I have two years left on the term I’m in, he’s smack in the middle of a gubernatorial term,’’ Booker said. “The governor is fiercely focused on today, doing his job. I’m focused on doing mine.’’
Booker, who was elected mayor in 2006, threw his support behind Obama early in the last presidential race, in May 2007. Booker cochaired Obama’s New Jersey campaign that year, and stumped for him around the country. He predicted he could play a “bigger role’’ this year.
Yet some of Booker’s lavish expectations for Obama have not been fulfilled. Booker said in 2007 that Obama could “raise us around our highest common ideals and remind us that we have more in common as a people than we do that divides us.’’ Today, American politics is fiercely divided.
Asked about the divides, Booker said there is rancor in Congress and “one person is not going to cure caustic politics.’’
“But when it comes to those larger ideals and spirit beyond politics, I think we’re seeing a more integrated, more united country,’’ Booker said. He pointed to the diversity and acceptance of young people, and their attempts to use social media to cross boundaries. “Obama is a president who represents that kind of unity.’’
Asked whether he believed race would play a role in the election, Booker, who is African-American, said racism - along with sexism, ageism, and religious bigotry against Mormons or Muslims - are small “gutter currents.’’ Romney, one of Obama’s potential opponents, is Mormon. “The mainstream has already shown an ability to not focus on race but focus on competency and qualifications for office,’’ Booker said.