Cory Booker made the US Senate. Now what?
Armed with a massive, cross-cultural following the question is how this newcomer will fit in
Will Cory Booker be another Ted Cruz, the next Hillary Clinton or something entirely different?
After winning a US Senate seat this week, will Booker, a rising political star, follow Clinton's example and try to blend in, sticking with the tradition of newcomers quietly earning their place? Or will he join the ranks of those who use the Senate as a platform to build their profiles and shape the national debate?
"He is somebody who does like to make a splash, but I would hope that he would be a little more cautious in introducing himself in the Senate," said Ross Baker, a Rutgers political scientist who has closely observed the Senate.
Booker will enter the chamber with assets few new senators enjoy, including a national following, star-studded support and a talent for theatrics. He is a dynamic figure with 1.4 million Twitter followers, cross-cultural appeal and is more well-known than most of his new peers.
But after pitching himself as a single-handed force for change, Booker is joining an institution that over recent weeks has been a picture of snarled dysfunction.
It is also a body where newcomers are told to wait their turn, and where arcane rules, winding processes and unending road blocks often anger ex-mayors, governors and business leaders used to setting their own agenda.
This perhaps helps to explain why only nine of the 100 members of the current senate have been mayors.
Citing the most recent conflagration, New Jersey governor Chris Christie told the Inquirer last week, "if I was in the Senate right now, I'd kill myself".
And in 2010 Booker himself said that part of serving in the Senate would mean "discussing rules of procedure until I'm nauseous".
Democrat Senator Dianne Feinstein, a former mayor, said: "It's very, very different, and it takes a lot of adjustment."
Senate newcomers are expected to been seen and not heard. They get the positions of presiding over sessions, serving shifts as functionaries as they watch others orate on the Senate floor.
New Jersey's senior senator, Robert Menendez, was the third-ranking Democrat in the chamber when he moved to the Senate, but he recalled old lions such as Senator Ted Kennedy urging him to "take your time, listen a lot, get a lay of the land and evolve over time".
Quiet patience, however, has never been Booker's style, and there is a new breed who made a habit of bucking tradition.
In August, Booker boasted to NBC News about "finding unique ways for bringing people together and disrupting broken systems, disrupting status quo".
He cited Cruz and fellow newcomer Senator Rand Paul, a Republican, as well as Democrat liberal champion Senator Elizabeth Warren, as examples of those whose bold styles he admired. But Booker has vowed to be outspoken for compromise and attacked Cruz's confrontational approach.
"A senator like Ted Cruz 60 or 70 years ago would have been almost unimaginable," Baker said. "Now you have a much greater diversity of styles."