CHARLOTTE, N.C. (CBSNewYork/AP) — If Cory Booker decides to run for president one day, he already has a personal connection to the first caucus state of Iowa.

The mayor of Newark, N.J., told about 60 Iowa delegates during a Democratic convention gathering that he was not only “a son of New Jersey but a grandson of Iowa.” His 94-year-old grandmother was born in Des Moines, Booker said, and his family had ties to a now abandoned south-central Iowa mining town called Buxton, where many black families moved “to make a hope and a dream become a reality.”

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“This is the state that brought my family from deep poverty to the middle class. — This is the state that will determine our destiny,” Booker said of Iowa, pleading with the delegates for an all-hands-on-deck effort to re-elect President Barack Obama.

For Booker and a slate of rising stars in the Democratic Party, the national convention in Charlotte amounts to a try-out before local activists, financial donors and well-connected political heavyweights from early voting states like Iowa and New Hampshire and perennial battlegrounds such as Florida. Some already have established political reputations and a large network of donors, while others are trying to raise their national profiles.

The 43-year-old Booker, a possible challenger to Gov. Chris Christie in 2013, met with both the Iowa and Florida delegations, a sign of his growing national reputation.

On his way to address the Florida delegation Tuesday morning, Booker tripped on a curb and sprained his ankle as he was getting out of his car.

But he went on to deliver his speech. Warning the delegates that “Democracy is not a spectator sport,” Booker drew the audience to their feet throughout his breakfast address, prompting some women to wave their white napkins in the air in exultation.

“He was so inspirational,” gushed state Rep. Lori Berman after his speech.

The Newark mayor then headed to the hospital to be treated for his injury.

He later Tweeted a photo of his ankle, which he described as “badly sprained.” He added that he stands with Obama “even with this bum ankle.”

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Tuesday night, Booker, who is a platform co-chair, energized the arena in his address on the opening night, telling delegates, “We are a nation with liberty and justice for all,” prompting chants of “USA!”

“We choose forward. We choose inclusion. We choose growing together. We choose American economic might and muscle, standing strong on the bedrock of the American ideal: a strong, empowered and ever-growing middle class. Our platform emphasizes that a vibrant, free and fair market is essential to economic growth,” he said.

Watch Booker’s DNC Speech:

A presidential bid for Booker may be far off but that doesn’t mean people don’t ask him about it. Facing TV crews from New York and New Jersey after his Florida address, one reporter asked him: “Can I turn it on you for one moment? 2013? 2016? Gubernatorial run? Presidential run? Don’t give me a typical canned answer.”

“My life for the next two-plus months is going to be focused on electing Barack Obama,” Booker responded. “After that? Fair game. Let’s talk anything you want about future elections. But right now, my heart, my soul, my passion, is re-electing the president of the United States.”

Another 2016 contender, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, was keeping a low profile. Cuomo, whose sky-high approval ratings and political pedigree have generated talk of a future presidential bid, was traveling to Charlotte for Obama’s address on Thursday but limiting his public events to a morning speech to his home state’s delegation breakfast.

Other up-and-coming Democrats like Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa were making the rounds before state delegations and at private events, introducing themselves to activists and trying to make a good first impression.

Any credible presidential candidate needs to raise tens of millions of dollars and have a strong enough network to support a national campaign, so a presidential campaign can be years in the making.

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