CONCORD, N.H.—“We! Will! Rise!” Cory Booker’s supporters chanted as he made his way down the hallway of the New Hampshire statehouse to file for the primary on Friday morning. “We will rise,” Booker wrote on a copy of the primary-ballot announcement that the secretary of state had, for commemorative purposes, asked all the candidates to sign. Booker had a hard time squeezing his words in, because of all the other names already taking up most of the space.
The slogan is meant to be a proud one. The words, borrowed from Maya Angelou and the civil-rights movement, have always inspired Booker; today, they fit neatly into his call for a beleaguered country to transcend the damage done by Donald Trump. But at this point, given Booker’s standing in the polls (he’s consistently stuck around 10th place in the field), they can come off as plaintive. Still, Booker and his aides remain hopeful that, in retrospect, the line will prove to have been clairvoyant.
When he filed his papers for the primary, the first questions Booker got from reporters were about why he wasn’t doing better in the polls. In fact, most of the questions he gets these days are about why he isn’t doing better.
Pete Buttigieg gets admiring attention for being a Rhodes Scholar. Kamala Harris gets attention for being a black candidate who has won statewide election. Beto O’Rourke got attention for speaking Spanish and being a social-media savant. But Booker is a Rhodes scholar, he was the first black candidate to win statewide in New Jersey, he speaks Spanish, and he has been a social-media phenomenon since back when he was famous for rescuing a freezing dog and a woman from a fire—yet he’s never captured the breathless (if sometimes fleeting) attention the others have in this race.