Cas­tro takes op­po­site path to Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion than O’Rourke

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY JAMES VAR­NEY

There are two Texas Democrats in the 2020 pres­i­den­tial con­ver­sa­tion, and while they’re not far apart po­lit­i­cally, they’re tak­ing com­pletely op­po­site ap­proaches to seek­ing their party’s nom­i­na­tion.

For­mer Rep. Beto O’Rourke has live-streamed his den­tal checkup, posted ram­bling mus­ings on­line, and seems to be strug­gling to fig­ure his next steps af­ter his failed bid to un­seat Sen. Ted Cruz last year.

Mean­while for­mer Obama Cabi­net of­fi­cial Ju­lian Cas­tro has been fol­low­ing the pres­i­den­tial can­di­date’s play­book to a T, be­com­ing the first ma­jor Demo­crat to an­nounce an ex­ploratory com­mit­tee last year, then an­nounc­ing his full-fledged cam­paign last month, and mak­ing all the other early moves to prove he wants to be a con­tender.

“He’s al­ways been some­thing of a celebrity in Texas,” said Cal Jill­son, a po­lit­i­cal sci­ence pro­fes­sor at South­ern Methodist Uni­ver­sity. “The question now is if he’ll be able to trans­late that to a broader stage.”

By al­most any mea­sure, the path to the White House for Mr. Cas­tro, 44, is a thin and tan­gled one. He barely reg­is­ters in polls.

An Emer­son Col­lege poll in Iowa, which hosts the cau­cuses that will kick off the Demo­cratic pri­mary a year from now, sur­veyed 260 likely Demo­cratic vot­ers. Just four of them backed Mr. Cas­tro.

And Mon­mouth Uni­ver­sity, in a na­tional poll, found just 1 per­cent sup­port for Mr. Cas­tro.

That means the for­mer San An­to­nio mayor has a lot of ground to cover if he wants to catch for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joseph R. Bi­den, who led the crowded Demo­cratic field in the same poll with 29 per­cent, fol­lowed by Sen. Bernard San­ders, at 16 per­cent.

Mr. O’Rourke, who has not made any of­fi­cial moves to­ward be­ing a can­di­date, came in fourth with 7 per­cent.

Mr. Jill­son calls Mr. O’Rourke’s post-elec­tion dither­ing “his Ham­let act.”

“And I’m not sure that’s play­ing very well,” he said. “It seems to re­flect less ma­tu­rity and de­ci­sive­ness than people have tra­di­tion­ally looked for in their pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates.”

Mr. Cas­tro, on the other hand, suf­fers from no such waf­fling.

He’s made the an­nounce­ments, TV ap­pear­ances and early-state vis­its nec­es­sary to make clear to vot­ers he wants to be taken se­ri­ously.

“In pol­i­tics, it some­times is these var­i­ous lit­tle points that add up, and in Ju­lian Cas­tro’s case I think he’s done all the lit­tle things right so far,” said Felipe Hi­no­josa, a his­tory pro­fes­sor at Texas A&M Uni­ver­sity.

One of those things is his stress on ex­ec­u­tive ex­pe­ri­ence, Texas an­a­lysts said.

The youngest per­son ever elected to of­fice in San An­to­nio — he was 26 when he he won a city coun­cil seat — Mr. Cas­tro be­came mayor of the coun­try’s sev­enth-largest city at 35.

Two years af­ter Mr. Cas­tro de­liv­ered the key­note speech at the Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion, for­mer Pres­i­dent Obama tapped Mr. Cas­tro for a Cabi­net post, nom­i­nat­ing him as sec­re­tary of Hous­ing and Ur­ban De­vel­op­ment in 2014.

Although his rel­a­tively short ca­reer was re­port­edly one rea­son Hil­lary Clin­ton ul­ti­mately passed Mr. Cas­tro over af­ter con­sid­er­ing him for vice pres­i­dent on her 2016 Demo­cratic ticket, his cam­paign is un­der­stand­ably high­light­ing spe­cific ac­com­plish­ments dur­ing that ca­reer.

In par­tic­u­lar, the cam­paign points to Mr. Cas­tro’s stint as mayor as an ex­am­ple of not only his ex­pe­ri­ence but his com­pe­tence in terms of get­ting things done. Op­er­at­ing in a less par­ti­sanly hos­tile en­vi­ron­ment than he may en­counter on the na­tional stage, Mr. Cas­tro was able to get busi­ness lead­ers be­hind a sales tax in­crease sold to vot­ers as a pre-kinder­garten ed­u­ca­tion boost.

That same plan has be­come a sig­na­ture plank in his pres­i­den­tial plat­form, with the cam­paign stress­ing the “pre-K for the U.S.A.” line.

The con­trast be­tween elected of­fice and ex­ec­u­tive posts be­comes par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant given the nearly iden­ti­cal left-wing eco­nomic plat­forms of the an­nounced Demo­cratic can­di­dates, Mr. Jill­son said.

Mr. Cas­tro’s cam­paign did not re­spond to in­ter­view re­quests and ques­tions about how he plans to dis­tin­guish him­self in the crowded field, but his po­si­tions and state­ments have put him squarely in the emerg­ing left wing of the party.

Mr. Cas­tro, who hails from a fam­ily with deep po­lit­i­cal roots, makes no se­cret of the fact af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion put him and his brother into Stan­ford and then Har­vard Law, a top shelf ed­u­ca­tional back­ground that makes him a firm sup­porter of af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion ad­mis­sions poli­cies.

“I’ve lived a life ex­pe­ri­ence of com­ing from a neigh­bor­hood and fam­ily where we were strug­gling, and I can iden­tify with those folks who are strug­gling,” he said in his last “Meet The Press” ap­pear­ance be­fore of­fi­cially declar­ing.

While Mr. Hi­no­josa be­lieves “eth­nic­ity won’t be enough,” he said it’s smart for Mr. Cas­tro to stress that at the out­set when he’s try­ing to draw some dif­fer­ences be­tween him­self and the left-wing mass of Demo­cratic hope­fuls.

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