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November 25, 2016

Is Cory Booker a favorite to challenge Trump in 2020?

President-elect Donald Trump hasn't even taken the oath of office yet, but pundits and political journalists are already asking: Will New Jersey Senator Cory Booker challenge him in 2020?

Obviously premature, it's a fair question. Booker, who campaigned hard for Hillary Clinton, was a leading candidate for vice president on the Democratic ticket before losing out to Senate colleague Tim Kaine of Virginia.

Booker the politician is skirting the question for now. He told that the next election was the "last thing" on his mind, saying his focus is on the "immediate priorities of working to unite our country." Meanwhile, he's retweeting supporters urging him to run, and not denying that he will.

Booker has the advantage of falling into the semi-famous politician category. He achieved some celebrity after his unsuccessful 2002 run for mayor of Newark was chronicled in the critically acclaimed documentary "Street Fight." (He'd go on to win the office four years later.)

Since entering Congress via a 2013 special election and keeping the seat in another vote a year later, Booker's natural charisma has elevated him to national attention. That includes book deals, celebrity fans and constant rumors that he'll be elevated to higher office.

His national profile was only boosted by a fiery and well-received speech at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia this summer.

So after Election Day, national and international publications immediately began circulating his name as a possible presidential pick for the Democrats in 2020, the same year Booker is up for re-election in the Senate. Heck, even a long-dormant Facebook group with nearly 5,000 likes urging him to run made its first post in three years on Nov. 9: "Let's get Cory Booker to run for President in 2020 to defeat Donald Trump."

The two biggest stars in the party — senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders — will be over the age of 70 by 2020. Booker will be just over 50. Seems like the nomination has been placed on a tee for him. Right?

Well, there's one little problem: Booker's ties to Wall Street. A 2013 piece in The Atlantic — "Why Do Liberals Hate Cory Booker?" — detailed how he'd been derided by the some on the left for the hefty donations he's received from the financial industry. Booker took the most Wall Street cash all U.S. Senate candidates in 2014.

It was the reason some were skeptical about Booker's chances for Clinton's VP. Progressives who backed Bernie Sanders in the Democratic Primary repeatedly derided Clinton's expensive speeches to Wall Street executives. Would that same faction of the party, reportedly continuing their political insurgency, back Booker?

Besides, a lot can change in four years. Just ask another Jersey politician. After declining to run in 2012, Gov. Chris Christie was an odds-on favorite to secure the Republican nomination in 2016.

And we all know how that worked out.