NEWARK, NJ - FEBRUARY 01: Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) (C) announces his presidential bid during a press conference on February 1, 2019 in Newark, New Jersey. Sen. Cory Booker launched his 2020 presidential campaign today, joining an already crowded field of hopefuls with his Senate colleagues. Booker is the second African-American entering the race, after Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA). (Photo by Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images)
Cory Booker's path to becoming a 2020 candidate
01:39 - Source: CNN

On his first day as a presidential candidate, Sen. Cory Booker sent a strong message about what his primary campaign will look like and the types of Democratic voters he will engage with a campaign rollout that spoke directly to African-American, Latino and female audiences.

Booker’s first interviews bypassed more mainstream media in favor of a targeted approach, taking his message directly to a trifecta of groups that Booker will aim to win over in a Democratic primary.

“The rollout wasn’t just, how many eyeballs can we get on this?” a person close to Booker explained. “It’s going to people where they are.”

As a newly announced presidential candidate, Booker called in to the “Tom Joyner Morning Show,” an urban radio show that caters to a black audience, on the first day of Black History Month.

“I wanted to come on this show, Tom, because of what you mean to so many people in this country,” Booker explained.

He then called into Univision for an interview conducted almost entirely in Spanish. Booker learned the language almost two decades ago, when he was starting out in Newark, New Jersey, politics as a city councilman and mayor.

“I live in Newark, New Jersey, and the support of the Latino community in the past changed my life and helped me win the mayoral race, because I had Latino support,” Booker said in the interview. “So my work in my political life has always been in conjunction with the Latino community.”

“It’s obvious my Spanish isn’t perfect,” Booker added. “But I want to talk directly with people about my ideas and platform.”

The gesture was met with praise from the political group Latino Victory, which tweeted, “.@CoryBooker starting his campaign by speaking directly to Latinos, in Spanish, is exactly the type of outreach that must be done throughout the campaign.”

And Booker’s first television appearance was not on a morning show, as was the case with Sen. Kamala Harris, who announced her bid for president on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” Nor did Booker go the route of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who first sat down with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, a Democratic standby. Instead, Booker opted to appear on ABC’s “The View,” a daytime program whose audience skews heavily toward women.

In engaging with potential supporters at this early stage, Booker’s team has been “casting a wide net,” said Andrew Turner, an Iowa Democratic operative who ran Rob Sand’s successful auditor campaign in the state last year and became close with Booker and his team in the process. Turner is now heavily leaning toward backing Booker for president, he says.

“I think they feel like everyone can be a Cory Booker supporter,” Turner said, “so it’s sort of a no-stone-left-unturned approach.”

Turner believes it harkens back to Booker’s time on the Newark City Council and as mayor, when he needed to speak to and connect with disparate African-American, Latino and Jewish communities, among others.

Reporters witnessed a flash of this quality when, during a news conference in Booker’s front yard Friday, a neighbor called out to him in Spanish from across the street.

“Hermana!” he shouted back, using the Spanish word for “sister.” “Cómo estás?”

Booker’s allies believe experience connecting with people of all backgrounds on the streets of Newark will enable Booker to do the same across the country as a candidate for president. Said Turner, “This is natural for him.”