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Cory Booker launches campaign tour from New Jersey city where he was mayor

Cory Booker kicks off campaign tour in Newark

Democratic presidential hopeful Cory Booker launched his national campaign tour Saturday with a major rally in the New Jersey city where he served as mayor.

The senator from the state has made visiting early voting states a priority during his 10 weeks in the presidential race, but so far he remains in the middle of the pack with poll numbers in the single digits. Still, his campaign is projecting confidence.

"We're trying to win the election -- we're not trying to win a news cycle," campaign manager Addisu Demissie told reporters this week, describing his approach as "organize and get hot at the end."

Of course, Booker and his advisers know that building a higher profile requires some bigger swings for attention that spotlight his talent for soaring oratory. Saturday's rally before a friendly crowd in Newark was giving the campaign a chance "to keep Cory front and center with the voters, which is how you break out here," as Demissie put it. "You need to be visible."

Booker's initial campaign announcement in February emphasized the importance of "common purpose" in politics, a message he's since expanded on to trumpet his successful work on bipartisan measures, such as the criminal justice reform bill that Mr. Trump signed last year. 

Speaking on "CBS This Morning" in February, he said the country needs a revival of "civic grace" and that his career has shown that "when you bring people together ... you can get things done that make a real difference."

Booker, 49, also said he's had a "very unique political path" that has forced him to run toward some of the "toughest problems" facing the country.   

Booker raised more than $5 million in the first quarter of the year, his campaign said. That sum ranks Booker behind at least six contenders, including South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who raked in $7 million.

But Booker, who ended 2018 with more than $4 million in his Senate campaign coffers, doesn't need a lot of money to leverage his skill at winning over crowds.

Heather Bowie, a 46-year-old woman who saw Booker speak last weekend in New Hampshire, said what she likes about Booker has less to do with his policies than his attempt to build a sense of community.

"His whole thing about unity? I believe him," she said. "I believe him. He's building a community this way."