Julián Castro Won't Qualify for the November Debate — Here's Why He Isn't Just Throwing in the Towel

Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons
Julián Castro's presidential run has been fun for San Antonians to watch.

Fans got to see him chew up debate opponents and be the local guy sounding smart on the national stage. Detractors got to look at his perpetually low numbers and say, “See, no one could ever take this guy seriously.”

With it now apparent that those same stubborn polls won't let Castro qualify for the November 20 Democratic debate, the fun looks like it's coming to an inevitable end.

But the Castro campaign's public face wouldn't necessarily clue you in to that. Even as staffers were warned their jobs soon might evaporate, Castro's been loudly critiquing the order of the U.S. primary process and releasing sweeping new policy proposals to help people with disabilities.

“Debates are important to be able to draw contrasts with other candidates and to be able to highlight your vision,” Castro spokesman Sawyer Hackett told the Texas Tribune, “but Secretary Castro has done that on issue after issue outside of the framework of the debate, and he will continue to do so if we don’t make the debate stage in November.”

So, what does Castro hope to gain by staying in a race that's clearly leaving him in the dust? Here are a few things to keep in mind:
  • Castro's focus on immigration kept the issue in the national eye. After all, he was the first candidate in the race to offer up a detailed immigration policy proposal. He's also used his heightened profile to draw attention to terrible border conditions created by Trump's draconian policies.
  • His persistence could help sell him as a running mate. Castro enjoys a close relationship with top-tier candidate Elizabeth Warren, and if she or another frontrunner truly believes Texas is in the midst of a purple swing, he could be an attractive VP pick.
  • This may not be the last time Castro runs for president. Nobody who runs for the nation's top office will admit the first time is a practice run, but it does build name recognition and a specialized skill set. Castro may be counting on demographics to swing further in his favor and fuel another run or two. There may be more to learn from sticking this out.
  • He forced the field to take Latino concerns more seriously. Even if there's not a future for the former SA mayor in national politics, as the only Latino in the race, he's been willing to take stands on issues such as police brutality in communities of color that forced others to acknowledge them. In Castro's own words, he sees himself as the "conscience of this field."
Of course, it would be easier for Castro to make headway on all of those fronts if he was on the debate stage in Atlanta. But, that's clearly not an option, so it's hard to fault the guy for taking it as far as the money — and his family — will allow him.

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