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Democratic Sen. Cory Booker Weighs In On Presidential Election

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Well, polls close in New Jersey at 8 p.m., but we're going to talk to the Democratic senator there, Cory Booker. Welcome to the program.

CORY BOOKER: Thank you very much. It's good to be on.

CORNISH: Now, earlier today, we had House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi calling the FBI Director James Comey's recent announcements a Molotov cocktail. And she was saying it might have affected down-ballot races for House and Senate, saying it might have made things more of an obstacle for Democrats. What concerns do you have about that in the Senate?

BOOKER: Well, I really think that it was a big impact on the election. I don't have any, obviously, data to back that up, and hopefully through an analysis we'll see. But clearly our Senate candidates and our presidential candidates were surging - or at the time that news came, it sucked the momentum out a lot of those races. And we think it could likely affect the outcome of some very tight Senate races as well. It's unfortunate that he would break with precedent. It's - to me, it showed a grave lack of judgment, to put something like that into an election days before it would come to pass. And I think he did a disservice to the United States of America.

CORNISH: Now, at this point, do you have any confidence about the ability of Democrats to possibly take back the Senate, take a majority?

BOOKER: Yeah. That's the great thing about what we're seeing around the country, is that so many of these Senate races are really too close to call. They're all within the margin of error. And that's why these elections that we still have, you know, hours left to vote in places like Nevada, Wisconsin - we want to just make sure that people are really still pouring to the polls because obviously there's a lot of eyes on the presidency. But clearly, when you have sitting United States senators saying that they think now that maybe they wouldn't want to confirm a Supreme Court justice at all, when you see the kind of rhetoric that's coming out, it just underlines and highlights the importance of hopefully the Democrats winning the Senate back and getting back to doing our job and doing things like appointing Supreme Court justices.

CORNISH: Now, Senator Booker, you've been campaigning for Hillary Clinton in Georgia, in Florida, Pennsylvania, and people have been talking a lot about that Obama coalition, especially African-American voters who appear to be showing less enthusiasm for the Democrats than they did in 2012. What do you think is behind that?

BOOKER: Well, you know, I've been on the ground in those states as recently as Detroit and talking to the field organizers. And they were frustrated by that meme, by that sort of scene that's going out there when they're seeing such strong turnout in African-American communities. My last event late last night in Detroit was the Souls to the Polls event in a very large church - full room. So I felt the energy on the ground. The numbers - we'll see them. But right now...

CORNISH: But it's not about turnout in general, right? It's about hitting that high benchmark set during 2008, 2012. Was that a one-time thing?

BOOKER: Well, 2008 was a benchmark year for turnout, and even President Obama saw some diminution in terms of the states that he won. But I think that the coalition that Secretary Clinton has made not just with African-Americans, but with Latinos, with women, I think that her - a tremendous coalition that's going to bring her a very strong victory tonight.

CORNISH: Speaking of that coalition moving forward, how do Democrats unify after this pretty contentious primary season?

BOOKER: Well, I don't think it's - I think that's something every American has to think about right now, especially in these final moments of this election. You know, patriotism, which is love of country - love is not a being verb. It's an action verb. So the fundamental thing we have to do, right or left, is vote. But after that, we've got to understand that we are one nation, and this - the division that we've seen heightened in this election cannot make for a nation that can push forward amongst our common values and our common ideals. Every one of us has a responsibility post-election to help to heal our country, to bring folks together, and to try to stop this rhetoric. We've got to stop being a nation of competing certainties and have the humility necessary to find the ways to collaborate with one another, despite differences on common ground, to advance the common good.

CORNISH: Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey. Thank you so much for speaking with us.

BOOKER: No, thank you so much. I wish you all the best. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.