Booker reaches out to lawmakers to seek support for 2020 bid

Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerCastro hits fundraising threshold for December debate The Hill's 12:30 Report: Pelosi says House will move forward with impeachment Booker: Primary voters 'being denied' their candidates of choice MORE (D-N.J.) on Thursday began calling members of Congress informing them he is running for president and is quietly making overtures to members for support, three congressional sources told The Hill.

"Yes, he is reaching out to members for their support,” said a former Democratic aide with direct knowledge of Booker’s intentions. "He's going to do it during Black History Month,” which starts on Friday.

“I don't know if it's going to be tomorrow, I just know it's going to be soon."

Among those who received a call Thursday were senior members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), of which Booker is a member.

“He’s making calls,” a fourth source, Rep. Frederica WilsonFrederica Patricia WilsonBlack lawmakers condemn Trump's 'lynching' remarks Ten notable Democrats who do not favor impeachment Assault weapons ban picks up steam in Congress MORE (D-Fla.), confirmed to The Hill on Thursday night. “He left me a voice message. I have to call him back.”

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A Booker spokesman declined to comment for this story Thursday night. But on Friday morning, the first day of Black History Month, Booker posted a video — with images from inner cities and the civil rights movement — formally announcing his presidential bid.

"Over 20 years ago, I moved into the central ward of Newark to fight slumlords and help families stay in their homes," Booker says in the video titled "Rise." "I still live there today, and I'm the only senator who goes home to a low-income, inner-city community — the first community that took a chance on me."

Booker’s entry into the 2020 Democratic presidential primary race was widely expected, but his announcement on the heels of the successful presidential launch of Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisCastro hits fundraising threshold for December debate Poll: Majority of voters name TV as primary news source Buttigieg: Harris 'deserves to be under anybody's consideration' for vice president MORE (D-Calif.) suggests he and his team realized he could not allow his Senate colleague and fellow CBC member build too much momentum, some Democratic observers said.

Both Booker, 49, the former mayor of Newark, and Harris, 54, the former California attorney general, have been vying for endorsements from CBC members — a sign of the importance of the black vote in the Democratic primary, especially in states like South Carolina, Ohio and Georgia.

On Wednesday, both Booker and Harris attended the CBC’s annual policy retreat for more than an hour. Though their 2020 presidential bids were not the focus, both senators worked the room during breaks.

More than a dozen CBC members interviewed by The Hill said they were not ready to endorse anyone yet with the 2020 field continuing to take shape.

As he left the meeting in the Capitol’s basement, Booker sidestepped a question about whether he felt any pressure to quickly launch a presidential bid now that Harris had begun to win congressional endorsements from lawmakers in her home state.

“I’m excited for the candidates already out there. It’s really good for the Democratic Party and it’s just a good thing,” Booker told The Hill. “I’m excited about Kamala’s candidacy. It’s incredible. It’s historic.”

The former Democratic aide said Booker will have a leg up on Harris with CBC members, because he's been a more active member of the group.

"He rarely misses a CBC meeting,” the former aide said. “Kamala Harris — great member — but that's just not her thing. ... So I could easily see Cory Booker getting more of their support."

The aide compared the situation to 2008, when former President Obama thought he'd lock down the support of CBC members because he was a part of the group. "But he never went to a CBC meeting," the former aide said, which allowed Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump to hold campaign rally in Michigan Saagar Enjeti ponders Hillary Clinton's 2020 plans Political ad spending set to explode in 2020 MORE to gain the support of much of the caucus.

"Cory Booker has invested in the CBC relationships."

If Harris wins the nomination and defeats President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrumps light 97th annual National Christmas Tree Trump to hold campaign rally in Michigan 'Don't mess with Mama': Pelosi's daughter tweets support following press conference comments MORE, she would become the first woman to win the White House and the second African-American after Obama.

The Democratic primary is expected to be crowded, however. Aside from Harris and Booker, Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenTrump to hold campaign rally in Michigan Castro hits fundraising threshold for December debate Buttigieg: Harris 'deserves to be under anybody's consideration' for vice president MORE (D-Mass.) and Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandHarris posts video asking baby if she'll run for president one day Warren hits Bloomberg, Steyer: They have 'been allowed to buy their way' into 2020 race Supreme Court poised to hear first major gun case in a decade MORE (D-N.Y.) are already running. So are Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardCastro hits fundraising threshold for December debate Saagar Enjeti ponders Hillary Clinton's 2020 plans The Hill's 12:30 Report: Pelosi says House will move forward with impeachment MORE (D-Hawaii), former Rep. John DelaneyJohn Kevin DelaneyKrystal Ball: What Harris's exit means for the other 2020 candidates 2020 Democrats thank Harris for friendship, candidacy after senator drops out Democrats take in lobbying industry cash despite pledges MORE (D-Md.), former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro and Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Ind.

“The field isn’t even half full yet,” one Democratic senator quipped.

Updated Friday at 8:05 a.m.