Booker reaches out to lawmakers to seek support for 2020 bid

Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerBloomberg set to debate in Nevada after qualifying in new poll Speculation swirls around whether Bloomberg will make Las Vegas debate stage Conway: Trump is 'toying with everybody' by attacking Bloomberg for stop-and-frisk comments 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 WilsonDemocrats tear into Trump's speech: It was a 'MAGA rally' Clinton advises checking your voter registration during Trump's State of the Union Ocasio-Cortez, Pressley to boycott State of the Union 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 HarrisHow the media fall in and out of love with candidates Conway: Trump is 'toying with everybody' by attacking Bloomberg for stop-and-frisk comments The Hill's Campaign Report: New challenges for 2020 Dems in Nevada, South Carolina 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 ClintonOmar endorses progressive Georgia Democrat running for House seat Bernie Sanders's Super Tuesday problem Democrats worried about Trump's growing strength 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 TrumpCensus Bureau spends millions on ad campaign to mitigate fears on excluded citizenship question Bloomberg campaign: Primary is two-way race with Sanders Democratic senator meets with Iranian foreign minister 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 WarrenWarren: Bloomberg making debate will show how other candidates handle 'an egomaniac billionaire' Klobuchar campaign gets first super PAC HuffPost reporter: Sanders could win plurality of delegates but lose nomination MORE (D-Mass.) and Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandHillicon Valley: US hits Huawei with new charges | Judge orders Pentagon to halt 'war cloud' work amid Amazon challenge | IRS removes guidance on Fortnite game currency Gillibrand proposes creating new digital privacy agency Lobbying world MORE (D-N.Y.) are already running. So are Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardWhere the 2020 Democrats stand on taxes Sanders leads Biden in latest Nevada poll Yang: NYC should implement universal basic income MORE (D-Hawaii), former Rep. John DelaneyJohn Kevin DelaneyLobbying world The Hill's Campaign Report: Four-way sprint to Iowa finish line John Delaney drops out of presidential race, Krystal and Saagar react 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.