Politics & Government

2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls testing the political waters in SC

U.S. Senator Cory Booker feels a connection with South Carolina

U.S. Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey spoke to an audience at Allen University about the midterm elections Thursday Oct. 18, 2018, in Columbia, SC.
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U.S. Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey spoke to an audience at Allen University about the midterm elections Thursday Oct. 18, 2018, in Columbia, SC.

New Jersey’s U.S. Sen. Cory Booker remained coy on his future ambitions at Columbia’s Allen University on Thursday, parrying a question on when he will announce plans to run for president in 2020.

“I appreciate that question,” Booker said laughing, adding, “I’ll be happy to have that conversation in 20 days” after the Nov. 6 midterm elections.

Booker was not the only presidential toe-dipper visiting South Carolina, home of the first-in-the-South Democratic presidential primary.

Earlier Thursday, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was at Benedict College, across the street from Allen and also a private historically black college.

Both are part of a wave of potential 2020 presidential candidates helping S.C. Democrats raise money before next month’s midterm election, while, at the same time, sizing up their presidential prospects.

A recent CNN poll ranked Booker fifth among a handful of possible Democratic contenders.

In first was former Vice President Joe Biden. Biden stumped last week in Charleston for James Smith, the Democratic nominee for S.C. governor, and in Columbia for former S.C. Democratic Party chair Dick Harpootlian, who is running for the state Senate’s District 20 seat.

Booker told reporters he plans to visit three more states in the next three days.

“I plan on hitting Nov. 6 so exhausted that I will probably take one or two days just to recover,” Booker said. “Obviously, there’s a lot to think about after this election that I’ll start considering then,” including whether to run in 2020.

Earlier Thursday, Bloomberg described himself as an everyman, telling a group at Benedict that — despite his multibillionaire successes — he always has worked over a small desk.

That impressed Dallas Toney, a 21-year-old Benedict senior, majoring in marketing.

“That left me speechless,” Toney said. “It shows that he doesn’t feel like he’s above anyone despite his position.”

Bloomberg — a onetime Republican and, later, independent — stoked speculation he may run for president in 2020 when he re-registered as a Democrat in New York. He was in South Carolina helping U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn raise money for the Columbia Democrat’s re-election campaign.

“I consider him to be one of those good people in this great country that is dedicated to help us put things back on track,” said Clyburn, the No. 3-ranking Democrat in the U.S. House.

More Democrats are coming.

Booker’s Senate colleague Kamala Harris of California will rally voters Friday in Greenville and Columbia. And, on Saturday, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont will talk to voters at an Our Revolution SC conference in Columbia.

Maayan Schechter: 803-771-8657, @MaayanSchechter
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