This has been a very good couple days for Cory Booker. After the Democrat equated President Obama's attacks on Mitt Romney's record at Bain Capital with Republican attacks on the Rev. Jeremiah Wright -- both are "nauseating," Booker said -- he has accomplished four things. First, way more people than before now know the mid-sized city mayor's name. Second, he gets credit for bravely condemning something everyone hates, negative ads. Third, he pleases an important section of his donor base. And fourth, he gets to claim the moral high ground, saying he's being used by terrible Republicans employing the very same cynical attacks he was condemning in the first place.
Americans have been furiously googling the Newark mayor, Politico's James Hohmann points out. At 8.a.m this morning, Booker was the most popular search term on Google -- he was beating the House series finale, the model Bar Refaeli, the Lakers, even Anchorman 2. (He's fighting a missing California teenager for the top spot.) How many more people know Booker's name than did before he went on Meet the Press?
In defending himself, Booker gets credit for being a serious man by condemning negative ads, which people say they hate, even if, as Jon Huntsman's failed campaign shows, they don't always vote for the guy who promises to keep it civil. "Judging by the reaction, you'd think the 43-year-old Mayor had come out for lower tax rates or converted to Mormonism," a Wall Street Journal editorial says Tuesday, just a few paragraphs above a line about the Obama campaign's Bain attacks being "transparently cynical." Booker shouldn't be punished for the crime of truth-telling, the Journal says: "Presidents who have to take their own party allies to the woodshed for the offense of telling the truth don't tend to win re-election."
More important for Booker's political future, Salon's Steve Kornacki writes, is Booker's defense of the private equity industry. Booker is expected to run for New Jersey governor in two years, and with his comments, "he was tending to a financial base that’s been there for him before and that he’ll need in the future. Running ads in the New York and Philadelphia markets is an expensive proposition, so Booker will need a ton of cash for a statewide run." (All of them positive, of course.)
In defending himself on Rachel Maddow's show Monday night, Booker said he wasn't going to give any interviews on the subject -- until the Republican Party changed its homepage to a "I Stand with Cory" petition. "My frustration was about the cynical negative campaign the manipulating of the truth," Booker said, and "here they are plucking those soundbites." He challenged Republicans to truly stand with him on social and economic issues, and as for the attack ads, he portrayed himself as a man of principle. His problem was with "negativity that distracts from core issues," he said, adding, "I reject that negativity, I'm sorry, I'm just not going to retract from that issue."