Bill Scher, Real Clear Politics, December 16, 2019
After failing to poll strongly enough to qualify for Thursday’s Democratic presidential primary debate, Sen. Cory Booker is now calling for the Democratic National Committee to loosen its criteria for inclusion in the January and February debates.
Last week, another candidate who can’t get on the debate stage, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, hosted a town hall in Iowa to lecture voters about how their nearly all-white state has disproportionate influence in determining the nominee.
If these two are trying to jump-start their sputtering campaigns, they are going about it the wrong way. They can’t complain their way to the nomination. They can’t blame the process. The onus is on them to earn more support.
Booker’s gambit is slightly more worthwhile than Castro’s. Whatever your opinion about the Iowa caucuses, they aren’t going anywhere. If you can’t do well there – and by “well,” historically speaking, that means at least third place – you’re probably not going to do well anywhere else.
Booker at least got all seven candidates who did qualify for the upcoming debate, as well as Castro, to sign his formal request to the DNC. His letter seeks to shame the DNC into adopting lower thresholds by implicitly drawing attention to the fact that the stage is now almost completely composed of white candidates, whereas helping Booker and Castro get back in helps diversify the proceedings.
But that seemingly united front probably won’t sway the DNC, because what the party wants most is an early nominee. Narrowing the debate stage nudges voters towards making a final decision by the Super Tuesday set of primaries on March 3. Reverting to sprawling debates risks dragging out the winnowing process and, in the worst-case scenario, leading to a contested convention that could fatally divide the party.
Even if the DNC caves under pressure, the fundamental problem for Booker, and for Castro, wouldn’t be solved. Both have already been in most of the debates, and neither made enough of an impression on voters to rise from the bottom of the polls. How would one more debate appearance change anything?
In order to seize the spotlight, the two need a radical change in campaign strategy.
The easiest way to do that? Join forces. Announce the formation of a Cory Booker-Julian Castro ticket.
This would pair not just two people of color, but also two people with real-world governing experience at the mayoral and federal level. Two people who can bridge the divide between North and South. Two people with youthful energy who represent America’s future.