Just hours after Cory Booker undermined one of President Obama’s key campaign messages Sunday, the Democratic mayor of Newark, N.J., reversed his criticism.
On NBC’s “Meet The Press,” Booker attacked Obama’s recent ad criticizing Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital and equated it to bashing the president over Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
“I’m not about to sit here and indict private equity,” Booker said. “If you look at the totality of Bain Capital’s record, it — they’ve done a lot to support businesses, to grow businesses. And this to me — I’m very uncomfortable.”
“This kind of stuff is nauseating to me on both sides,” he added. “Stop attacking private equity. Stop attacking Jeremiah Wright. This stuff has got to stop.”
The remarks hit a nerve among liberals, who took to social media to express their anger at the rising Democratic Party star. The Republican National Committee quickly pounced. Booker took to Twitter to ease the fallout and reaffirm his support for Obama, but it didn’t help much.
By the evening, Booker posted a YouTube video in which he doubles down on his frustration with “negative campaigning,” but sings an entirely different tune on Romney and Bain.
“Let me be clear. Mitt Romney has made his business record a centerpiece of his campaign,” he says in the video. “He’s talked about himself as a job creator. And therefore it is reasonable — and in fact I encourage it — for the Obama campaign to examine that record and discuss it. I have no problem with that.”
For good measure, Booker goes on to endorse the Obama ad’s message.
“In fact, I believe that Mitt Romney, in many ways, is not being completely honest with his role and his record even while a businessperson, and is shaping it to serve his political interest — and not necessary include all the facts of his time there,” continues the mayor, sitting at his desk with a flag draped in the camera shot.
Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt tweeted a link to a condensed, 35-second version of Booker’s 3:42 minute video which included the mayor’s criticisms of Romney.
Booker’s initial comments were politically problematic for Democrats not only because they were directly at odds with Obama’s message but also because they reinforced the GOP argument that the president is bashing the free market.
“Clearly the Obama campaign is sending a message that in their party any defense of the free market/private sector must be silenced and apologized for,” Miller told TPM in an email.
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.