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Cory Booker says Democratic debate went ‘extraordinarily well’

Days ahead of his fourth visit to Nevada and less than 24 hours after hitting the Democratic presidential debate stage for the first time, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker is feeling good.

“It went extraordinarily well,” Booker said of the debate in an interview with the Review-Journal on Thursday. “I started this campaign with a lot lower name recognition than the others. There were over 20 million people who watched … and they got to hear my heart, my head and my vision for the country.”

Booker was one of 10 candidates under the lights in Miami for the first of 12 official Democratic primary debates. Another 10 candidates will participate in a similar debate Thursday night.

The debate led to an influx in donations, website traffic and mentions of his name on Google and social media, Booker said. When asked if he felt underestimated heading into the debate — most national polls have him outside the top five — the senator said he was comfortable with where the campaign stood.

“If you look at history, people who poll the highest this far out do not go on to win the nomination,” he said. “We’re going to work hard in the four early primary states. It’s still very early. I was confident before I entered the race, and now I’m even more confident.”

Booker was one of several candidates to address the audience in Spanish from the debate stage, and he found himself in the thick of heated discussions on immigration and diverse communities.

When asked about his path through Nevada — largely seen as the first true test on those issues — Booker repeated something he has said on the big stage Wednesday and on small stages throughout the country: He is the only candidate living in a majority black and brown community, and he has shown himself to be “an authentic leader” on criminal justice reform, immigration and economic development.

“I was mayor of Newark for longer than I’ve been a senator, and my career has rested on the support of black and brown communities and on being chosen to lead them,” Booker said. “I’ve made a lot of progress on issues important to minority communities.”

Booker added that he “would not have been on (the debate) stage if it wasn’t for Latino support.”

The senator will return to the Las Vegas area next week for speeches at an award ceremony hosted by the Nevada Democratic Veterans and Military Families Caucus on Wednesday and the Boulder City Damboree on Thursday.

Contact Rory Appleton at rappleton@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0276. Follow @RoryDoesPhonics on Twitter.

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