Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker’s meteoric rise as a Democratic superstar was slowed last month when slipped up by revealing the truth — that he thought the Obama campaign’s attacks on Bain Capital were inappropriate. Booker was momentarily benched as a top surrogate for the president, and in his absence, a new big-city mayor is stepping up on Obama’s behalf: Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter.
Booker hasn’t been banished from Obama’s campaign by any means. Thursday, he’s co-hosting a high-dollar fundraiser for the president in New York City. But his appearances on the trail have become less frequent, creating a void in Obama’s surrogate pool that is occupied by a significant number of Democratic mayors.
Enter Nutter, the popular Philadelphia mayor since 2008. In recent days, Nutter’s been out in front for Obama. He’s been an attack dog for the president for months, tearing into Mitt Romney on an April conference call with reporters.
Nutter was front and center when Romney made a prominent visit to a West Philadelphia charter school in late May, charging that the appearance smacked of insincerity.
“It’s nice that he decided this late in his time to see what a city like Philadelphia is about … It’s May,” said Nutter, according to ABC News. “The election’s in November. I’m not sure what he’s going to learn here today. I don’t know that a one-day experience in the heart of West Philadelphia is enough to get you ready to run the United States of America.”
And unlike Booker, Nutter is not afraid of invoking Bain.
“Every day, Mitt Romney and his supporters and his campaign talk about his experience as a job creator, but when anyone tries to discuss that issue or his experience, we see the crocodile tears come out and the claim that those who want to explore his record don’t believe in capitalism,” Nutter said on another conference call.
Recently his role has expanded. On Monday, Nutter took on Romney in a CNN interview and defended the president against Romney’s attack ad pegged to Obama’s recent “the private sector is doing fine” line that has incensed Republicans.
The local press in Philadelphia is starting to notice Nutter’s ascent in the Obama campaign. The Philadelphia Weekly chronicled Nutter’s stepped-up role Wednesday:
Nutter has taken the role of Obama surrogate far more seriously, it would seem, than some other area Democrats. He has essentially never gone off message when touting the president — unlike Gov. Ed Rendell and Newark Mayor Cory Booker, both of whom infamously have clarified their remarks about the president and Romney—and has used every chance he’s got to attack the former Massachusetts governor on his tax returns, record at Bain Capital, gubernatorial policies and immigration policy.
It’s not just the anti-Romney messaging Nutter is helping Obama with. Appearing at the U.S. Conference Of Mayors meeting in Florida Wednesday, Nutter attacked the congressional gridlock in Washington in a way that fits right in with Obama’s campaign playbook. From Bloomberg BusinessWeek:
“It’s keeping capital on the sidelines,” Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said of the factionalism in Congress. “Business people are not sure what direction we’re going in.”
“We need them to do their jobs,” Nutter told BusinessWeek, echoing a cry often heard from Obama on the campaign trail. And it’s not one-sided: The president has given Nutter some prominent shout-outs.
“You’ve got one of the best mayors in the country,” Obama told the audience at a Philadelphia fundraiser Tuesday. “Mayor Michael Nutter is here.”