Hillary Clinton jumped into the presidential race on Sunday, but could it be her running mate that throws the biggest hurdle in the path of the GOP?
Clinton took months to make official what people had been speculating about her entrance into the race, and during that time she and Bill were cultivating a relationship with a Democrat lauded as one of the party’s major up-and-comers.
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, 40, was mayor of San Antonio from 2009 until 2014, when he resigned during his third term to take the cabinet post. He delivered a keynote speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention.
Back in August, the Washington Post reported that the Clintons invited Castro to their home in Washington “for a private dinner that friends described as a chance for Democratic leaders from different generations to become better acquainted.”
Castro “traveled to New York in July to join Hillary Clinton, as well as Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, at a children’s song and dance performance for the Bronx Children’s Museum’s youth arts program. And in March, Hillary Clinton sat next to Henry Cisneros, who served in her husband’s Cabinet, at a private luncheon in New Mexico, where Cisneros said they discussed Castro and his political future.”
More from the WaPo story:
Said another person familiar with the discussions, who spoke on the condition of anonymity so as not to alienate either camp, “The Clintons are keeping the Castros very close to them.”
The behind-the-scenes maneuvering illustrates how the Clintons are trying to acclimate themselves into a Democratic Party that has evolved and nurtured new stars in the years since they ceded the stage to Barack Obama in 2008.
For the Clintons, there are clear advantages to building an alliance with Castro. A young and dynamic figure who broke onto the national scene with his keynote address at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, Castro is arguably the only Hispanic Democrat with a broad following. Although his background as a Mexican American could have broad appeal to Hispanic voters, Castro does not speak fluent Spanish.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, married to a Mexican immigrant, speaks Spanish, as does first-generation Cuban-American Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). Castro’s grandmother immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico in 1920.
Of course, Castro’s last name on the ticket may bring other connotations to Clinton’s campaign, in the mainstream press as well. On Friday, MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell brought Castro’s twin brother, Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), on to talk about Cuba — because “you have a Cuban-American background.”
“Well, I’m Mexican-American. But same last name,” Castro replied.
Rep. Castro said he believes Hillary is the best candidate”and I do think that ultimately she’ll be the Democratic nominee.”
“I do think people want to see a competition. That’s natural. It is a competition and not a coronation. But she’ll go into race as the best qualified, most experienced candidate of anybody in the field, Republican or Democrat,” he said.
On his brother as vice presidential candidate? “Of course, if you ask me, I would put him on, but I’m saying that as a brother,” Julian Castro said. “No, I think my brother would be great at whatever he does, but he’s focused right now on doing a great job at HUD.”
The New York Times’ Nate Cohn says Republicans can win without converting Hispanic voters — estimating Hispanics “will represent just 12 percent of eligible voters, and between 9 and 10 percent of actual voters,” with negligible gains in battleground states. Randy Borntrager, political director of People for the American Way, disagrees about Hispanic voters’ impact, arguing at the Huffington Post that Latinos put key Senate races within reach for Democrats even though they ultimately lost.
Mitt Romney got 27 percent of the Latino vote in 2012; George W. Bush won 44 percent of Hispanic voters in 2004. A Rubio pollster has estimated the eventual Republican nominee needs more than 40 percent of the Latino vote to win the presidency.