MANCHESTER, N.H. — New Jersey U.S. Sen. Cory Booker praised the president for his handling of the pandemic and accused Republicans of spreading misinformation while headlining a Democratic Party fundraiser in New Hampshire Saturday.

Booker spoke to several hundred Democratic faithful who gathered in Manchester for the New Hampshire Democratic Party's first major in-person event since the beginning of the pandemic, according to WMUR-TV.

A virtual option was available for those who didn't attend in person.

Booker called President Joe Biden "a man of towering decency" who worked hard to deal with the pandemic and help working Americans with programs such as the child tax credit. He said Republicans are more interested in spreading lies and misinformation than encouraging people to get vaccinations and boosters.

Republicans "have more hate for Anthony Fauci than they do love and grief for the loss of 800,000 Americans," Booker said, referring to the top U.S. infectious disease expert.

He urged Democrats to unify as the "party of we," not the "party of me."

After Booker announced plans to appear at the party fundraiser in the state that traditionally hosts the nation's first presidential primary election, his team sought to tamp down chatter that he was positioning himself to run in 2024.

Allies say he is very close to Vice President Kamala Harris and would not challenge her in the event Biden retires. The president has said he will run for reelection.

Booker said at the fundraiser that he's running for president "of the Maggie Hassan fan club," referring to New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan, who's seeking reelection. Hassan, New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Rep. Chris Pappas also spoke at the event.

The state party said the event was a combination of its two major annual fundraising events, the McIntyre-Shaheen 100 Club Dinner and the Eleanor Roosevelt Dinner.

(Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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