Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D) said Tuesday that he and President Barack Obama are still friends after a May 20 "Meet The Press" interview where the mayor called criticisms of Mitt Romney's tenure at private equity firm Bain capital "nauseating."

"I definitely wasn't at my best," Booker said to Jay Leno on NBC's "The Tonight Show." "What I was trying to express -- the reaction to it all, really made my point, that we are now in this combustible polarized political environment that distracts us."

Booker clarified his remarks the same day of the "Meet The Press" interview, but they nevertheless complicated an attack line for the Obama campaign.

On "The Tonight Show," Booker said that he didn't defend Romney, and maintains a good relationship with the president.

"My biggest concern was my president. Barack -- the President of the United States -- was my friend before he was my president. I met him in 2005 and began a a relationship with him … when other people might have been saying things about me -- he was incredibly gracious in the things he said about me," Booker said.

He went on, "I've seen him since. We continue to be friends. He's incredibly kind. And that's the shame about this kind politics we're in, is people often miss the essence of a man. We have a president, that despite whether you're right or left, he's a good person. And was the first person to step forward and say, 'Hey, you're my friend. We all say things that don't come out as we mean them. And I'm still with you.'"

Below, more Obama surrogates to keep an eye on this election cycle:
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  • Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel

  • Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick

  • Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer

  • Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell

  • Newark Mayor Cory Booker

  • N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo

  • Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.)

  • L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa

  • Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.)

  • Former President Bill Clinton