CNN "CNN Newsroom" - Transcript: "Interview with Sen. Cory Booker"


Date: Nov. 21, 2019


I want to go back to Dana Bash. She is with Senator Cory Booker -- Dana.

BASH: Thank you so much. That was --


BASH: It's good to see you. That was fascinating to hear what Gary Tuchman was hearing from those voters. You won with those undecided voters in terms of your debate performance tonight.


BASH: And yet the question, of course, is are you going to go caucus for, who you want to caucus for, and your name didn't come up. How do you bridge that?

BOOKER: Well, let me tell you why it's important. This time out, the polls have never been predictive of who was going to be president. Iowa sees upsets. Obama was 21 points behind right now.

But what we have going for us, which Obama did and others who have upset is, I'm now at net -- No. 3 in net favorability in this state. We actually have -- lead the whole field, Iowa and New Hampshire, in local leaders, mayors and state reps.

So we're building the kind of team that we need slowly. And what we find is when people come to a longer town hall with me, we get a high percentage of people that sign commitment to caucus cards.

So we're very much in the hunt and ready to upset in Iowa, like most of our presidents of the past who weren't pulling a great, like I'm not, that would go on and win in Iowa because of all those other metrics that are really important.

BASH: The difference between then and now, of course, are the debate rules.


BASH: And this debate was do or die for you. And this time period is do or die for you.


BASH: Because as you said during this debate, you're right now not on the debate stage in -- in December.

BOOKER: Right. Right, so we're on this precipice right now. People want me on that stage, you're going to have to go to and contribute.

So here's the good news. In the first hour after the debate, we had more money raised and the best fundraising day of our campaign. So people are now saying that this is the moment. If you want me in this race, you've got to go to You've got to choose me. You've got to make a contribution.

BASH: But it's also the polls.

BOOKER: Absolutely, we need -- we're missing it by 1 percent in all polls, which is, like, one person of the 400 or 1,000 people that they call.

BASH: In four polls.


BOOKER: Yes, so there's a lot of qualifying polls between now and then. All we need is a 1 percent more, which is about one person in any poll. So I'm hoping people will keep me in this race by choosing me.

The first step, though, we've got to get that fundraising up, and we really need to continue this to be the best fundraising day. If folks want me, we're on the precipice. You want me on that stage, then contribute.

BASH: What -- I just want to ask you again, because I'm sure you think about this a lot.

BOOKER: A lot.

BASH: Since you spend your time, you know, running around the country campaigning, why is it that people give you these high marks, and yet you can't get there, so far, in the polls?

BOOKER: Because what's wrong about polling is that people decide late. That's why, from Carter polling at 1 percent right now, Bill Clinton polling at 4 percent right now, Barack Obama 21 points behind, they all benefited from people. Just remember, 80 percent of Iowans say they haven't made up their final decision, as you saw with that.

We are scoring points for folks in our debate performances, in our town halls. Their local leaders choosing me more than any other candidate. We're all setting this up.

But because of these rules now by the DNC, even though we have more Democratically-elected people endorsing me, their rules are on polling. Polls have never been predictive, but it's something we have to do and individual contributions online. We need those folks to keep me in this race.

BASH: So, you said tonight during this debate that you shouldn't need a focus group to hear from African-American voters. You said, you don't need a focus group. What were you referring to, or who -- whom are you referring to?

BOOKER: I just see that politicians often figure out what they're going to think by polls, by focus groups.

BASH: But you weren't specifically talking about anybody out on that -- that stage?

BOOKER: I was specifically talking about the fact that we need to elect someone who has an authentic connection to the communities we need for the coalition.

The difference between us winning a presidential election in '12 and not winning it in '16 can be -- if you can look, just look through the lens of African-Americans. We had a record tonight in 2012 of African-American turnout. If we had the same turnout in 2016 of African-Americans, we'd be talking about Secretary and President Hillary Clinton right now.

So if you -- if you -- if we're going to elect somebody, let's elect somebody that is authentically connected, that can inspire African- Americans to vote at the same level as they did in the record years.

BASH: Do you think Joe Biden is authentically connected?

BOOKER: I think he's going to have to answer for what I think continue to be indications that he's out of step with the urgencies of the things that affect our country.

And so I love Joe, excuse me, the vice president. He is somebody that I literally -- I don't use that word loosely. He's swarming into office. He's somebody that we all respect.

But again, the leaders that have done it for us in the past -- Bill Clinton, Barack Obama -- are people that had the kind of love, loyalty and excitement and enthusiasm to get record turnouts.

I hope that Joe, the vice president, excuse me, will, you know, just in general, if we're having this conversation -- I've brought these issues up twice now on the debate stage. I really hope that we can have a substantive connection about the issues that are really impacting communities of color in this country.

And the marijuana issue, remember, people on college campuses don't get arrested for marijuana. We had more marijuana arrests in 2017 than all violent crimes combined. And it's disproportionately focusing on African-Americans and low-income people, black and brown low-income people.

That's a major problem, that we have a drug war that's not a war on drugs but a war on people.

BASH: So we have to toss back to Anderson, and we have to take a break, but yes or no. If you don't make the next debate stage, will you stay in the race?

BOOKER: I think we have to have that conversation as a campaign. I do think this is a turning point in my entire campaign. We need to surge. We need the support. Please keep me on that stage so I can keep bringing up issues that are important to all Americans.

BASH: But you might drop out if you don't make it?

BOOKER: I'm not -- I'm not making any determination right now, because I believe we're going to make it, and I need folks' help. Go to if you want me in this.

BASH: Senator Cory Booker, thank you so much.

BOOKER: Thank you.