- Cory Booker recently announced he’s running for president in 2020.
- He is a Democratic senator from New Jersey. He also happens to be unmarried.
- The US hasn’t had a president without a spouse in over 100 years.
- Even when we did have unmarried presidents, they had stand-in first ladies.
- Experts agree that this could become a talking point in his and his opponents’ campaigns.
Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey has long been the subject of speculation when it comes to the next presidential race. In February, he announced that he is running for president in 2020.
Cory Booker could make an ideal presidential candidate for the Democratic Party
After graduating from Stanford University and going to the University of Oxford on a Rhodes scholarship, Booker studied law at Yale University and quickly made his way into politics, winning a seat on the Newark City Council in 1998. He developed a knack for attracting attention – in order to raise awareness for urban-development issues in the city, Booker engaged in a 10-day hunger strike and lived in a tent.
But it’s not only the political arena in which Booker has managed to draw headlines – in 2013 he made news for saving a freezing dog in the dead of winter, and the previous year he ran into a burning house to save his next-door neighbour. And because Booker seems to document the vast majority of his life on Twitter, there’s not a whole lot we don’t know about the presidential candidate.
And that includes his relationship status.
Booker is unmarried, which has been the case for only 2 other presidents in US history
Actress Rosario Dawson confirmed in March that she and Booker are in a committed relationship.
“I am just grateful to be with someone that I respect and love and admire so much,” she told TMZ.
In the history of the United States, the electorate has voted only two bachelors into the White House. The most recent was Grover Cleveland, who began his first term in 1885 and then married while in office. Before Cleveland, James Buchanan was the only bachelor to serve as commander in chief. At this point it’s been 122 years since we’ve had a president who was single.
Even Buchanan, who was single throughout his term, had his adopted niece, Harriet Lane Johnston, serve as his first lady.
When Sen. Lindsey Graham, a bachelor, ran for the Republican nomination in 2015, he joked to the Daily Mail that he would have a “rotating first lady,” referencing his sister and female friends as potential stand-ins.
There’s a political advantage to having a spouse
Political ads often tout candidates’ family values, and campaign posters almost always include images of candidates smiling alongside their partner, children, and at least one four-legged friend.
“Marriage has long been viewed as the entry point to adulthood, signalling reliability, responsibility, and steadfastness,” relationship expert Susan Winter told INSIDER. “A man with a family has more to lose, and therefore, more to keep him in line.”
“Trustworthiness is the top layer of this underlying belief,” she added.
In other words, if you’re “good enough” to be committed to someone – and have someone committed to you, you can’t be all bad. Plus, having an impressive partner can add to a candidate’s credibility.
But as desirable as a married status may be for politicians, it’s not necessarily reflective of the US population
In 2017, the Census Bureau reported a record number of single adults in the US. More than 110 million Americans were either divorced, widowed, or had always been single, representing more than 45% of the nation’s population. And though single folks in the US are more powerful now than they have ever been before, the same may not hold true for presidential hopefuls like Booker, according to experts.
Bennett said single men are perceived especially negatively by other men.
“Unmarried political candidates have a set of challenges that are different than candidates with spouses,” April Masini, a relationship expert, told INSIDER. “Most voters relate to what they’re used to, not just in their personal lives but what they are used to seeing in elected officials. The reality is that most elected officials are married.”
Being single can stoke the rumour mill
“Voters and the general public love to speculate on other peoples’ romances,” Masini said. “So if a political candidate is single, there will be speculation on his political views – and his or her romantic interests. Whether they like it or not, a single candidate is going to get a lot of press about his or her dating life.”
This runs the risk of distracting from the more important issues at hand, like healthcare and the economy.
Experts say Booker’s status will soon become a talking point – perhaps for both his and his opponents’ campaigns
“Every smart politician knows that their private image is their public image,” Winter said. “To be seen as reliable and trustworthy, public figures realise that each aspect of their life will come under scrutiny. Cory Booker’s current status of being single isn’t an issue if his comportment is in alignment with the image he seeks to maintain.”
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