Friday, August 3, 2012
Democrats Need Julian Castro | Casey's Last Word
During his fundraising visit to San Antonio last month, President Obama told supporters about the millions of dollars that would be spent on TV ads painting the faltering economy as his fault.
Then he said this: “The next four months, you guys won’t see them, because, you know, you’re not considered one of the battleground states, although that’s going to be changing soon ...”
The Democratic crowd roared.
Was Obama pandering or engaging in wishful thinking, or both?
After all, Texas hasn’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since Jimmy Carter in 1976.
Since then, Democratic presidential candidates have raised millions in Texas – and spent it elsewhere, where they had a chance of winning.
But the Obama White House gave an indication this week that he wasn’t just whistling Dixie.
That evidence? The selection of Mayor Julian Castro as the keynote speaker for this year’s Democratic national convention.
This will be seen by some as just a play for the Latino vote.
Certainly it is that, but sources tell me that more is involved.
In the past months, Texas Democratic leaders have been telling national leaders that Texas can, indeed, be in play.
Two factors are key.
One is demographic.
Hispanics, who vote heavily Democratic, went from being 32 percent of the state in 2000 to 38 percent in 2008.
The Hispanic growth will continue, both through immigration and the simple fact that Hispanics already living here have been having more babies than other population groups.
The other factor, Texas Democratic leaders argue, is that the continued rightward move of the Republican Party will push independents toward the Democratic Party.
But only if the Democratic Party can begin to develop candidates with the ability to appeal statewide.
The Texas leaders told the national contingent they could either stand by and watch, or they could help the Texas party rebuild.
It wasn’t a difficult choice.
If the nation’s second largest state, with its 40 electoral votes, could be removed from the reliably Republican column, the impact would be huge.
And nothing could be better than to help build up Hispanic leadership in the hopes that the right candidates could significantly boost the traditionally lethargic Hispanic turnout.
Not just any Hispanic candidate can do that.
One who did was Henry Cisneros. Running for mayor in 1981 after six years on City Council developing the profile of a bright, highly-educated young politician of whom Hispanics could be proud, he literally doubled the Hispanic turnout.
And that is a major reason Julian Castro, a Stanford and Harvard graduate, will be the keynote speaker.
In the wake of Obama’s emergence with his keynote address at the 2004 convention, it gives Castro the opportunity to immediately boost his stature.
New York Times reporter Michael D. Shear nearly hit the target when he wrote that the speech “could serve as a national introduction for Mr. Castro as he pursues a political career outside Texas.”
What Shear didn’t get was that Texas is so big that the most efficient way to give someone a statewide introduction is on a national stage.
That’s one reason no mayor has been elected governor of Texas in modern times.
Castro, say sources, would prefer to stay in Texas, and national Democratic leaders should want him to.
Senators and cabinet members are in no position to build a state party.
A governor is.
That’s Castro’s goal, at least for now.
Some backers think he can do it by 2014, but he knows that 2018 is more realistic.
Between now and then he needs to do two things: One is to continue being a successful mayor.
The other is to continue to enhance his statewide image ndash; partly by playing on the national stage.