Texas Democratic powerbrokers are quietly promoting rising star Julian Castro as a consensus building leader with bipartisan support as they position the charismatic San Antonio mayor for the party’s 2016 presidential ticket.
In Julian Castro, who vaulted into the American spotlight at the Democratic National Convention last September, Democrats believe they have what one party leader called “the next Obama” who could be vital to retaining the White House.
The 38-year-old mayor would give Democrats the inside track to the ever-increasing Latino vote, which is expected to be even more pivotal in 2016 than it has ever been.
But Castro’s political Achilles heel is that his home state has been solidly red for a generation and that, even with Texas’s large Hispanic vote, Democrats have not won a statewide race in almost two decades.
Top Democratic leaders, though, believe that Castro would give the party a unique opportunity to capture the state’s 38 electoral votes in 2016, given his pull among Latinos as well as by positioning him as a consensus builder along the lines of Texas legend Lyndon Johnson.
The Texas electoral votes together with the 55 of solidly blue state California could potentially give a Democratic nominee 93 electoral votes, more than a third of the 270 needed for election.
Some Texas Democrats who are preparing behind-the-scenes to soon begin working on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign are even wishfully talking about a Hillary-Julian dream ticket.
But the Democrats hoping to groom Castro into a national candidate are urging supporters to rein in such talk.
Julian Castro’s national image
Julian Castro, meanwhile, has been carefully developing the national image that got a rocket boost with his speech as the keynote speaker of the Democratic National Convention, the same role that in 2004 kicked off Obama’s presidential dreams.
Castro has been in high demand at speaking engagements around the country, and he is expected to have a formal introduction to Washington next month at the president’s inauguration as well as at his brother Joaquin’s swearing-in as one of Texas’ newest Congressmen.
It all has made talk of a Latino presidency inevitable, and Castro has not shied away from the discussion.
“I’m confident that with all the progress that the United States has made, people from many different backgrounds will become presidents in my lifetime,” he said in a recent interview.
“So I do believe that within the next generation there will be a Latino president, and it will be someone who represents everyone, who is an American president, not a Latino president.”
While the country’s 53 million Hispanics accounted for just 10 percent of all voters in 2012, they are projected to make up 40 percent of the growth of eligible voters by 2030.
But the Democratic insiders who are positioning Castro privately say it is not the Latino vote that concerns them but the state’s non-Hispanic electorate, much of which is conservative and Republican.
In the coming months, according to the game plan being prepared for him, Castro will tread thoughtful positions that will continue his progressive stance on socio-economic issues while being careful not to alienate conservative voters.
“Julian has been doing that as mayor,” says one top Texas Democrat, “and it’s the reason he’s been so popular throughout San Antonio.”
Castro himself says as much.
“The great thing about being mayor here in San Antonio,” he says, “is that it’s a non-partisan office, so I didn’t have to run as a Democrat or Republican. I enjoy working with different folks, no matter what their perspective is.”
Castro’s biggest challenge in maintaining those political bridges to non-Democrats may come soon as the immigration reform legislation debate unfolds early in the year.
“I support comprehensive immigration reform,” says Castro, “and I’m confident that Congress and the president will come to a good decision with legislation on comprehensive immigration reform. That will benefit the United States as a whole, and San Antonio as well.”
But ranking Democrats in the state are also advising Castro to personalize the issue with his own American Dream story, much as he did at the Democratic National Convention.
“Julian’s best answer on the immigration issue is himself,” says a Texas member of the Democratic National Committee. “He is living proof of the contribution immigrants have made to America.”
Originally published by VOXXI as Texas Dems prepping Julian Castro for 2016 presidential ticket.