DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Democratic White House hopeful Cory Booker is rolling out his Iowa steering committee, a team of activists and operatives that features party powerbroker Jerry Crawford, who played a key role in each of Bill and Hillary Clinton's presidential campaigns in the state.
Crawford, a Des Moines-area attorney who also played leading roles on Al Gore and John Kerry's campaigns, said he's been courted by multiple campaigns but told The Associated Press in an interview he's backing Booker because of the New Jersey U.S. senator's positive message.
"I'm very much drawn to his passion for civility and his determination to pursue healing," Crawford said.
Crawford is among 10 Iowa activists, operatives and elected officials who plan to provide strategic advice and operational support to Booker's campaign as part of his Iowa steering committee, being rolled out Monday. The group includes four other previously unannounced endorsers: former Iowa state House minority leader Rep. Mark Smith and city councilmembers Dale Todd, of Cedar Rapids, and Mazahir Salih and Bruce Teague, both of Iowa City. Booker's campaign said it hopes all three will help organize African American support for him in their respective cities.
The other five steering committee members are state Reps. Amy Nielsen and Jennifer Konfrst; Iowa Democratic Party central committee members Landra Jo Reece and Melinda Jones; and former American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees political director Marcia Nichols, all of whom previously expressed their support for Booker.
"From local activists to council members and state representatives, these individuals have been on the forefront of standing up for their communities," Booker said in a statement.
Crawford, whose weekend conversation with the AP was interrupted by a call from Booker, said he plans to be in touch with the Booker campaign multiple times a week and has already begun efforts to convince other major Iowa political players to get on board with the campaign. Besides gathering support for the candidate over the next nine months, Booker's team sees the members of his steering committee as key forces on caucus night, the kind of voices who could win over persuadable caucus-goers in key precincts.
With at least 50 staffers on the ground, Booker's Iowa team is widely seen inside the state as one of the strongest and most seasoned, behind only Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren's in numbers. But thus far, Booker's staffing strength hasn't translated to support in the polls: Booker still draws only low single-digit support in nationwide and state surveys.
Booker's staff and advisers dismiss the polls as too early to be predictive and argue that the senator is running more of a slow burn-style campaign that will ensure he has the operation in place to harness any momentum in the fall if he does catch fire — and enough resources to sustain it through the caucuses and beyond.
"This is a horrible time to be one of the front-runners," Crawford said, noting that early Iowa front-runners "don't do very well, historically speaking."
Crawford said he expects to see Booker surge around Thanksgiving, but right now, "Cory's exactly where you want to be."