(CN) – New Jersey Senator and presidential hopeful Cory Booker made an impassioned pitch to the National Press Club in Washington on Wednesday, saying he is the best candidate to represent the Democratic Party and take on President Donald Trump.
“We need someone to emerge from this primary who can build multiracial and multiethnic coalitions with a shared purpose that understands the moral urgency of the moment,” Booker said during a roughly 30-minute speech. “That’s what it’s going to take to beat Donald Trump next fall and I am the only candidate with a proven track record of doing it again and again.”
Pointing to Democratic electoral triumphs in 2008, 2012 and 2018, Booker said the engagement of black voters will be key to retaking the White House.
“All of our winning coalitions have involved the active participation and high engagement of African-American voters,” Booker said, positioning himself as the best candidate to energize the vital constituency.
Black voters so far have thrown their weight behind Joe Biden, the former vice president under Barack Obama, according to numerous polls. But Booker says many candidates who ended up claiming the nomination were still polling dramatically behind in the polls at this stage of the fight.
“What’s going to be key is the next 100 days,” he said.
Most national polls have Booker mired in the single digits, trailing not only the front-runners but also other flailing candidates like Senator Kamala Harris of California.
A Yougov poll released Wednesday put Booker at 2% support. He has, however, already qualified for the next debate in November.
Booker touted his ground game in Iowa and pointed to endorsements from prominent members of the Iowa caucus, but acknowledged his fundraising lags other candidates.
“We need to make sure we can win our plan to win this election,” he said.
Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are winning the quarterly battle to win to their respective war chests and Booker acknowledged Warren’s ground game in Iowa is already formidable.
Warren and Sanders represent the more progressive wing of the party. Biden has been making a case to moderates, with Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, making the same play should Biden falter.
But Booker said the intraparty fighting only helps Trump and adds fodder to the general sense of disunity in the country. He has positioned himself as the candidate who will build bridges rather than foster discord.
“I have excited a diverse coalition of voters, both progressives and moderates,” Bookers said. “I will not divide this party and drag down others with personal attacks.”
Along with embracing the full spectrum of the party, Booker talked about turning out black voters in cities like Milwaukee and Detroit. He also agrees with the consensus in the party that Democrats need to carve a message with appeal to states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, which handed Trump the White House in 2016.
But he also said focusing on energizing urban voters in the Rust Belt is a critical part of the Democratic coalition.
“If black voters had voted at the same rates previously, we’d have a President Hillary Clinton,” he said.
Booker did not spend much time on the issues of the day, including House Republicans mounting an incursion into the secretive impeachment hearings or whether Trump again demonstrated inherent racism by using the word “lynching” in a tweet.
Instead, the senator joked with reporters and attempted to articulate a vision of America based less on acrimony and bickering and more on comity and accord.
“For America to make progress there has to be a leader who can pull us together,” he said, pointing to his ability to work across the aisle along with building unity in an intermittently fractured Democratic Party. “I am not talking about moderate lanes or progressive lanes. I am the best leader to unite this entire party.”