Cory Booker and Rand Paul: Why Are These 2 New BFFs?

This strange political alliance makes sense if you consider one’s presidential aspirations and the other’s progressive agenda.

Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey; Kentucky’s Sen. Rand Paul
Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey; Kentucky’s Sen. Rand Paul Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images; Tom Pennington/Getty Images

This is what drives Paul’s seemingly erratic but very well-placed attacks on everything from the anti-drug police state to the military-industrial intelligence complex. There is recognition of the new American anger, as evidenced by a recent Gallup poll showing 42 percent of voters identifying themselves as independents. And this makes Paul one of the more dangerously underrated front-runners for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.  

For Booker, there are short- and long-range advantages to jumping on the Paul wagon. In the immediate future is Booker’s re-election battle—this year. There are whispers that Booker’s 2013 run against GOP contender Steve Lonegan in a special election ended up with a much slimmer margin of victory for Booker than it should have: 55 percent to 44 percent. Facing the prospect of Republican competition in 2014, Booker is publicly partnering with Paul to offset any potholes on the way to a full six years in the Senate. Long-term, should an open path to the White House present itself, Booker can get a second look from libertarians and anti-government conservatives.

While Booker-Paul is not a match made in heaven, it’s a match with a basketful of tasty political twists. Booker gets libertarian street cred, and Paul can get a photo op with the world’s next famous black politician. The Kentucky senator with the racially shady pops has also made interesting rounds on the African-American outreach circuit, giving clumsily delivered talks in predominantly black locations rarely charted by a white Republican—places such as Howard University and Detroit—even though few black people showed up at the Motor City affair. Perhaps this will lock up just enough black votes to get Paul across the presidential finish line—or so he thinks. 

Charles D. Ellison is a veteran political strategist and frequent contributor to The Root. He is also Washington correspondent for the Philadelphia Tribune and chief political correspondent for Uptown magazine. You can reach him via Twitter.