Booker’s campaign shifts into all-out sprint to persuade voters to get him in December debate

With the qualification deadline fast approaching for the December Democratic presidential debate, Sen. Cory Booker will seek to boost his flagging poll numbers by “reorienting our entire campaign apparatus into a persuasion effort,” according to a memo Tuesday from Booker’s campaign manager to supporters, obtained exclusively by CNN.

In the memo, campaign manager Addisu Demissie lays out an all-hands-on-deck moment for Booker — saying the campaign plans to spend six-figures on radio and digital advertising ahead of the DNC’s December 12 deadline, while redirecting staff and volunteers in early states toward targeted persuasion.

“We know the most important thing we can do for Cory Booker right now is to ensure that every dollar spent, every volunteer shift booked, every waking moment our campaign staff spends in the next two weeks is geared toward persuading voters that Cory should be their first choice in this contest,” Demissie said.

It is likely to be a challenging and defining sprint for the New Jersey senator, whose campaign has rated favorably among Democratic voters but struggled to pick up steam. Although Booker last week surpassed the 200,000 donor threshold for the next debate, he still needs to hit 4% in four qualifying polls to earn a spot on the December debate stage. If he does not, it could be a fatal blow to his presidential hopes.

Booker’s team remains hopeful of a late surge, however. The campaign has brought in more than $1 million since last week’s Democratic debate, Demissie said, fueled by “an outpouring of new support.” Meanwhile, larger than normal crowds greeted Booker during eight stops in New Hampshire over the weekend.

But the challenges are stark for Booker’s campaign, which recently began selling sweatshirts emblazoned with the word “underdog.” In the memo, Demissie acknowledges that his campaign does not “have Michael Bloomberg or even Tom Steyer money” to spend on advertising, and does not have plans to go up on television.

Bloomberg, a former New York mayor and one of the richest men in America, is kicking off his presidential campaign this week with a television ad buy of at least $37 million.

With the airwaves crowded with those ads and, to a lesser extent, Steyer’s, “we would need to be spending a lot more … to make a dent,” one Booker campaign aide explained. “And we know that.”

The money gap in the primary makes the December debate all the more important for Booker, as a vital source of oxygen as he continues to try to break through.

“We know that if Cory’s voice is on that December debate stage,” Demissie said, “he will have another opportunity to shine and keep our momentum growing.”

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