Sens. Kamala Harris and Cory Booker both treated the Brett Kavanaugh hearings as an audition for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. Sen. Amy Klobuchar did too, but she’s not the same bracket as Harris and Booker — the ostentatiously left-wing, person-of-color bracket.
How did Harris and Booker fare in the head-to-head competition? It depends on what Democrats, especially those who will pick their bracket from — are looking for.
In the portions of the hearings I observed, Harris was more sober, more canned, less down-to-earth, less narcissistic, slightly less shameless, and a little more genuine.
Harris read her opening statement. Booker did not rely on paper. Booker was full of biographical asides — e.g., how much he appreciated working with various Republican committee members on criminal justice reform. Several times, he clutched his heart, often the signature of a phony and/or a hustler. These stunts seem missing from Harris’ repertoire.
And, of course, Booker produced his “Spartacus” moment, casting himself as a defiant martyr willing to risk expulsion from the Senate. In fact, his “defiant” act had been authorized.
Harris did her share of grandstanding. However, it was the grandstanding of a lawyer, not a street performer.
To me, Harris seemed like a less grating version of Hillary Clinton, brought up to date. Booker seemed like Barack Obama, but with less polish and less intelligence.
Who has the edge as we move toward 2020? It’s hard for me to say. I’m not a constituent of the Harris-Booker “bracket.” I’m not even a Democrat.
My sense, though, is that Booker is better equipped to compete for the votes of far-left Democrats who favor an African-American candidate. Harris, however, will have more appeal to Democrats outside of that bracket. In addition, her gender will likely be worth votes in primaries.
There’s a chance that Booker will be laughed out of the race. He certainly will be ridiculed for his “Spartacus of Newark” act. But wide though that ridicule may be, it won’t extend to the Democratic left.
Booker is working hard to be its darling, and over-the-top performances like those he displayed this week seem well-calculated to advance that effort.