With This Week's San Antonio Rally, Julián Castro Played for a Breakout Moment

click to enlarge Julian Castro addresses supporters during his presidential campaign announcement in TK. - SANFORD NOWLIN
Sanford Nowlin
Julian Castro addresses supporters during his presidential campaign announcement in TK.
Julián Castro's Wednesday counter-rally to President Trump's local fundraiser seems like the kind of attention grab the former San Antonio mayor's lackluster presidential campaign could use more of.

After all, a similar strategy worked wonders for then-unannounced Democratic presidential aspirant Beto O’Rourke in February. That was when the former El Paso congressman staged a counter-demonstration to one of Trump's MAGA events in his hometown. The move brought O'Rourke national media exposure and the attention of fundraisers.

What's more, Castro's rally comes a week after he released his “People First” immigration platform, which would decriminalize illegal border crossings and set up a 21st-century "Marshall Plan" for Central America.

"Part of me doesn't want to play mind reader and guess people's motives," Trinity University Political Science Professor David Crockett said of the rally's timing. "At the same time, no one at this level of politics does anything by accident."

As a candidate, Castro is polling at around 1 percent and struggling to stand out in a Democratic field crowded with nearly 20 contenders. And he's not yet amassed 65,000 donors — one of the criteria required to qualify for the first set of Democratic debates.

“It’s a godsend for [Castro’s] campaign,” Colin Strother, a Democratic strategist and former Castro advisor, told Politico. “It’s the big-ticket attention-getter that he’s really been needing.”

So far, there does seem to be payoff, mainly in the form of national media coverage. The New York Times ran a lengthy piece contrasting Castro's and Trump's divergent ideas on immigration policy with the dueling SA events as the backdrop.

The Times quoted Trump ginning up fear about "dangerous people" crossing the border and promising that immigration would be the Dems' 2020 downfall. In contrast, Castro told supporters that the president's immigration strategy has been "downright stupid."

"When it comes to immigration, this president and his policies have been an absolute failure for our country," Castro said at the rally.

Media coverage alone doesn't keep candidates in races, but Trinity's Crockett points out that headlines can help donors understand that a candidate has the chance to stand out on a national stage — a necessity if Castro's going to hammer through the clutter.

"Castro's sort of a second-tier candidate at this point," Crockett said. "People are more focused on when Biden will come into the race and how Biden's pawing might affect his chances."

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