MANCHESTER, N.H. — US Senator Cory Booker presented himself as a unifying figure in the mode of Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign on Saturday, as the New Jersey Democrat addressed party stalwarts in the state that holds the first-in-the-nation presidential primary.
Booker, who said he hasn’t decided whether he will run for president, positioned himself as temperamentally opposite to President Trump — whom he never named — as he addressed Democratic voters at a celebration of the party’s “blue wave” in the midterm elections, when New Hampshire Democrats seized control of the state’s Senate, House, and Executive Council.
Booker presented himself at the fete inside the New Hampshire Institute of Art as a humble man who believes in bringing people together and who holds an expansive vision of what it means to be an American.
“The truth of America has always been the ability for us to come together, to work together, to stand together, to struggle together, and to sacrifice together,” he said. “We understand that old African saying that says, ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together.’ ”
In a speech that repeatedly paid homage to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and to unsung inspirational figures from his own life, Booker aligned himself with egalitarian values and with a near-religious embrace of his fellow Americans.
“I will never let anyone pull me down so low as to hate them,” he said. “This country has enough hate, enough bigotry, enough anti-Semitism. What we need now is courageous actors who call to the conscience of our country a higher moral imagination, who call for a revival of civic grace.”
Booker, who was in New Hampshire just weeks ago campaigning for Representative Annie Kuster, told the Globe after his speech that he hadn’t mentioned the president’s name because “the challenges we’re seeing have been going on for years, even before Donald Trump.”
He went on to list issues he believes the nation must address, such as the cost of prescription drugs, access to affordable health care, and problems within public education. Democrats, he said, “need to define ourselves not by what we’re against, but by what we’re for.”
Despite his reticence regarding Trump on Saturday, the former Newark mayor has built a national profile as one of the president’s leading critics, grabbing headlines in January when he delivered a passionate rebuke of Trump’s reportedly disparaging comments about Haiti and African nations during an Oval Office meeting.
Booker took the stage Saturday after speeches by New Hampshire Democrats, including Kuster, Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, representative-elect Chris Pappas, and other Democratic officials — some of whom had blistering criticisms for Trump.
Hassan called him “a president who isn’t fit to serve.”
Booker is one of a growing cadre of potential Democratic presidential hopefuls to visit the Granite State as they test the waters before launching a campaign.
Even before the November midterms, New Hampshire voters had shaken hands with figures such as US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, US Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe, former Housing and Urban Development secretary Julian Castro, and Michael Avenatti , the attorney who is known for representing adult film actress Stormy Daniels in a lawsuit against the president.
Booker’s message resonated with Gale Bailey, 54, a Democrat from Durham, N.H., but she said it is far too early to decide whom she will support in the 2020 race,
“I don’t want to commit yet,” Bailey said. “The point of going to see the candidates is that it helps me decide.”
Booker is aligned with her views on several issues important to Bailey, who said she hopes to see prescription drugs made more affordable, the federal minimum wage raised to $15, and Medicare expanded to cover all Americans.
“To me, issues are important,” she said. “Being anti-Trump isn’t enough. They have to fix some of the problems that he’s not addressing at all.”
Teresa Moler, 54, of Nashua, came to the Manchester event after having heard Booker speak earlier Saturday in her hometown.
“I liked what I heard, but I haven’t decided if I’m going to support him yet or not,” Moler said. “But I do think he’s a great candidate.”James Pindell and Travis Andersen of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.