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Cory Booker Talks a Big Game, but Can He Deliver?

John Moore/Getty Images File Photo
Booker is a national figure thanks, in part, to his active Twitter account. Many believe he’ll be the voters’ choice to fill the remaining term of Lautenberg, who died in June.

Cory Booker could be in for a shock.

The energetic Newark mayor, who is favored to win Tuesday’s Democratic primary as well as the Senate seat in New Jersey’s special election, is already a national political star and has been boasting about the kinds of things he thinks he can accomplish from a statewide perch. But the man who saved a woman from a burning building, hosted dozens of powerless residents at his home in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, and already has 1.4 million Twitter followers may not be ready for the slow-grinding gears of Congress.

“The Senate’s far bigger than any one senator, no matter how many Twitter followers,” said Jim Manley, a former longtime top Senate Democratic aide who is now senior director at QGA Public Affairs.

That may be true, but Booker clearly believes he will be a major force. He suggested last month that Senate Democratic leaders can’t wait for him to join their ranks after the Oct. 16 special election.

In an interview with Gannett’s New Jersey newspapers in July, Booker said he’ll “be able to have an impact that a freshman senator usually won’t have” because at least one unnamed Senate Democratic leader told him he will be needed “out working for the party” — an apparent reference to his fundraising prowess and appeal on the campaign trail.

“Give me a statewide platform,” Booker told Gannett, “and I will not only continue this stuff at a magnified level all across our state, but in Washington on day one.”

He added, “The ability to rack up favors with people now that are asking me to campaign in tough states from Kentucky to Louisiana, but also experience in working across the aisle on issues because I’ve conservative bona fides, because I’ve been working with their think tanks on practical projects in Newark as well.”

That unbridled ambition and confidence is hardly new for the 44-year-old. He was elected to the Newark City Council in 1998 and he served just four years before challenging, unsuccessfully, the incumbent Newark mayor in 2002. He’s been the city’s mayor since winning an open-seat race in 2006.

There’s no shortage of former mayors who have served in the Senate — more than 100 all told, according to statistics maintained by the Senate Historical Office — but coming directly to the Capitol from a mayor’s office is unusual in modern times.

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