Experts say Cory Booker's unusual status as a single man could make a run for president even tougher

Spencer Platt/Getty ImagesPeople are bringing up Cory Booker’s relationship status as an issue with his candidacy.
  • Cory Booker said it would be “irresponsible” not to consider running for president in 2020.
  • He is a Democratic senator from New Jersey. He also happens to be single.
  • The US hasn’t had a president without a spouse in over 100 years.
  • Even when we did have a bachelor president, he had a stand-in first lady.
  • Experts agree that this could become a talking point if Booker were to run for office.

Corey Booker, the Democratic Senator from New Jersey, has long been the subject of speculation when it comes to the next presidential race. In a lengthy interview with New York Magazine, the former mayor of Newark continued to fan the flames, saying it would be “irresponsible” not to consider running in 2020.

Booker could make an ideal presidential candidate for the Democratic Party

After graduating from Stanford on a Rhodes Scholarship, Booker studied law at Yale and quickly made his way into politics, winning a seat on the Municipal Council of Newark in 1998. He also developed a knack for attracting attention – in order to raise awareness for urban development issues in the New Jersey city, Booker engaged in a 10-day hunger strike and also lived in a tent for a brief period.

But it’s not only the political arena in which Booker has managed to draw headlines – back in 2013, he made heartwarming 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 this would-be presidential candidate.

And that includes his relationship status.

Cory Booker is single, which has only been the case for two other presidents in US history

In the history of the United States, the electorate has only ever voted 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, and at this point, it’s been 133 years since we’ve had a president who was also single.

Even Buchanan, who was single throughout his term, had his adopted niece Harriet Lane Johnston serve as his first lady.

When Republican Senator and bachelor Lindsey Graham 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.

Cory BookerCSPANSen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) testifies against attorney general nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions.

There’s a political advantage to having a spouse or significant other

Political ads often tout candidates’ family values, and campaign posters almost always include images of a candidate smiling alongside their partner, children, and at least one four-legged friend.

This doesn’t necessarily come as a surprise – as relationship expert Susan Winter told INSIDER, “marriage has long been viewed as the entry point to adulthood, signalling reliability, responsibility, and steadfastness. 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, too – 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. In fact, more than 110 million Americans were either divorced, widowed, or had always been single – that represents more than 45% of the nation’s population. And even 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 Cory Booker, according to experts.

“Singles are still viewed as more lonely, and less warm and caring than married people,” David Bennett of Double Dating Trust told INSIDER.

Moreover, as Bennett points out, the literature suggests that single men are perceived especially negatively by other males.

“Unmarried political candidates have a set of challenges that are different than candidates with spouses,” April Masini, a health and fitness advocate and relationship guru, 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.”

And 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.

Cory bookerBusiness InsiderSen. Cory Booker.

Ultimately, experts agree, Booker’s single status will soon become a talking point – perhaps for both his campaign and his opponents’ campaigns

“Every smart politician knows that their private image is their public image,” concluded Winter. “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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