Cory Booker raised eyebrows among political watchers today when news came out that he was scheduled to speak in Iowa Aug. 29 -- just two-and-a-half weeks after the New Jersey Senate primary and before the state even holds its general election.
Any politicians' visit to Iowa, of course, prompts immediate speculation about national ambition, and could be seen as presumptuous for a mayor who is still campaigning for a Senate seat.
Booker, though, said this afternoon that he scrapped many planned speeches, including the one at the University of Iowa, when the Senate campaign unexpectedly began in June, following the death of Sen. Frank Lautenberg.
"When this campaign began, and unfortunately began with a sudden schedule, I canceled a lot of speeches, that was one of them," Booker said after a meeting with the Inquirer's editorial board in Philadelphia. "We canceled when we were aware, unfortunately, that I was announcing that I was running."
(The "unfortunate" part presumably referred to Lautenberg's death, forcing a campaign this year instead of 2014).
An official at Iowa, though, said the school just got word today. Booker was invited May 7 to speak as part of week-long events welcoming students back for the fall. An agreement was set May 21, said Lin Larson, director of creative services for the school's communications and marketing department.
"Just today we got notice that he would be canceling," Larson said.
His understanding, from speaking to Booker's campaign, was that there was a miscommunication with the firm that handles the mayor's speaking events. That firm was supposed to cancel the event, Larson said.
"We were subsequently, sometime today, contacted by the firm," Larson said.
Booker said nothing should be read into his trip to Iowa, even though that's what many in the political world were doing.
"I have family reunions in Iowa, my grandmother’s from Iowa, I have a lot of family in Iowa, so my visiting should not be seen as something more than what it is," he said.
Booker said his grandmother grew up in Des Moines.
Booker is running in New Jersey's Senate primary against Congressmen Frank Pallone and Rush Holt and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver.
Steve Lonegan and Alieta Eck are competing in the Republican primary.