When 44-year-old Julián Castro officially launches his presidential campaign Saturday, he’ll be one of the youngest candidates in the prospective 2020 Democratic field. And he’ll be first — and likely only — Latino candidate.
That could give Castro an edge in a key early presidential state — Nevada has the highest percentage of Hispanic voters of the four early voting states. And it’s likewise an asset in California, which stands to cast a long shadow over the Democratic presidential primary now that its primary has been moved forward to early March.
Together, the former San Antonio mayor and former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development’s youth and background offer a profile built to appeal to the Democratic Party’s diverse and ascendent Obama coalition.
Castro, a longshot who lacks widespread name recognition or an extensive campaign infrastructure, will need every advantage he can get. That helps explain why he chose to hold his formal presidential announcement event before anyone else this year, declaring his White House bid at Plaza Guadalupe here on the west side of San Antonio, not far from where he grew up as the son of a single mother and twin brother to Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas).
It’s the second part of his campaign launch — Castro kicked off his bid in early December, announcing his intentions via Twitter with a biographical video and the formation of an exploratory committee.
“You’ll always have front-runners. The bigger challenge might be a giant field,” said Jeff Link, an Iowa Democratic strategist. “Candidates who don’t start out with name identification or a giant campaign account, they have to figure out a way to distinguish themselves among all the lesser-known candidates.”
It’s never been a problem for him in the past. Castro in 2001 became the youngest person ever elected to the San Antonio City Council; later, he became the youngest person in the Obama administration Cabinet at the age of 39. In between, he mounted an unsuccessful bid for San Antonio mayor in 2005 before winning the post in 2009.
“His biggest asset is he’s a policy wonk. I mean, this guy is really, really smart,” said Gilberto Hinojosa, the Texas Democratic Party chairman. “He knows a lot about a lot of issues. He is extremely articulate. He’s got really good ideas and he’s able to put those ideas in terms where ordinary Americans can understand them and I think what that does is puts him in the situation where he is best, not only talking to large crowds but talking to smaller crowds where he can answer questions and articulate and share his ideas on his vision for America.”
Castro’s long been considered one of the party’s rising stars, leading to his delivery of a keynote address at the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. He also made the short list of candidates to be Hillary Clinton’s running mate in 2016.
“At that time, I think there was a widespread feeling that this guy’s got something special,” recalled Brian Fallon, who served as Clinton’s national press secretary in 2016. “There was a natural feeling within the party that this guy was capable of big things, but in a state like Texas it might be hard to climb the ladder in the way that politicians in other states might be able to. Once you reach heights that lofty that early, there’s only so many more places to go.”
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SOURCE: Politico, Nolan D. McCaskill