The enigma of Cory Booker

He seemed like a perfect candidate for 2020. So why did his presidential campaign fail?

Cory Booker.

Few observers of the 2020 Democratic presidential campaign can have been surprised by Cory Booker's announcement on Monday that he was dropping out of the race. As a candidate he never rose above the low single digits in national polls and struggled with fundraising, despite several memorable debate performances and a résumé that would have appealed to a wide range of primary voters 10 or 20 years ago. Even now, there are no obvious reasons why he should have failed so spectacularly. Here is a popular second-term senator and former mayor, a vegan who remains a legend in New Jersey high-school football circles, a Rhodes scholar who lived for years in a housing project.

His career is stranger and more varied than that of most politicians. It is one defined by beating the odds. As a gadget player lining up on both sides of the ball in high school, he led Old Tappen, a three-touchdown underdog against Hoboken, to a historic upset victory thanks to plays like this long touchdown reception. In 1986 he was named to the USA Today All-USA team, where he appeared alongside Emmitt Smith. After that he was personally recruited by Gerald Ford for Michigan and Lou Holtz for Notre Dame before settling on Stanford, largely for academic reasons. Despite some impressive play-making (especially during another upset, of a number-one-ranked Notre Dame), he appears to have had priorities other than athletics and did not play up to his potential at tight end.

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