Weird timing. He’s been a no-chancer for months, excluded from the most recent debates, but slogged on anyway. Now here we are, a month out from Iowa — and suddenly he’s gone. Presumably he ran out of money; I can’t think of another reason why he wouldn’t just play out the string and hope for a miracle on caucus night.
Whatever the explanation, the winnowing of minority candidates from the Democratic field continues. Cory Booker’s still hanging on, barely, but he might not make it to the caucuses either. Tulsi Gabbard’s in it too but she’s practically an independent at this point, having declined to support Trump’s impeachment and seemingly relying heavily on independent and Republican support in her longshot bid in New Hampshire. Only Andrew Yang has any life in his candidacy and his polling ceiling appears to be fixed at five percent or so.
Castro’s going to be on Rachel Maddow’s show tonight to do a campaign postmortem. After Kamala Harris dropped out, he accused the media of having applied a “grossly unfair” double standard in its coverage of her, a thinly veiled racial pander aimed at picking up her disgruntled voters. We’ll see if he offers that excuse for his own failure this evening. In the meantime, we should remember his finest moment on the trail:
And I’d like to thank @JulianCastro for being the only candidate to come out in support of men having abortions, a debate moment that set the stage for the insanity of this primary https://t.co/6kwfWb7FsC
— David L. Bahnsen (@DavidBahnsen) January 2, 2020
To a righty like me, his campaign was a series of impressions ranging from the futile to the obnoxious — the time he tried and failed to dent Joe Biden for being too old; his sustained advocacy for decriminalizing illegal border crossings amid an unprecedented immigration crisis; his refusal to distance himself from his brother’s sinister attempt to get lefty activists to harass local Trump donors in San Antonio. To lefties, though, it may have been more successful. Castro was (usually) effective at the debates and he passed the left’s litmus tests on cultural issues. I think Dave Weigel’s right:
Castro joins Inslee, I think, as the only 2020 Dems who ended their campaigns with elevated reputations. Castro shook off his image as an amiable lightweight and really moved the ball on immigration/impeachment/housing.
— Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) January 2, 2020
Castro probably approached this race the way Obama approached the 2008 campaign: If he catches lightning in a bottle and wins, great, but even if he doesn’t he’ll benefit long-term by building some national name recognition and impressing the base in various ways. O was a more credible candidate because he was a U.S. senator at the time and a better retail politician. But Castro is younger now than Obama was then and, like Weigel says, he showed Dems that he has something to say on policy beyond the housing expertise he gained while at HUD. I think he’s a legit VP contender to balance a ticket led by a white woman, which seems unlikely at this particular moment but not impossible:
Thank you @JulianCastro for being a powerful voice, for proposing bold and progressive plans, and for using your campaign to help people who need it now. You made this race stronger—and you will continue to be a leader in our party and our country for many years to come. pic.twitter.com/SWlsDC9HcS
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) January 2, 2020
It’s interesting how he and Beto O’Rourke followed different trajectories in the campaign despite being similar in key ways. They’re both from Texas, both in their mid-40s, both made immigration a showcase issue (for a time, anyway, in Beto’s case), and both followed a strategy aimed at out-woking the competition. O’Rourke entered the race with turbo-charged hype, however, while Castro entered almost as an afterthought. The former may have ruined his political career by fizzling after the promise of Betomania in 2018’s Texas Senate race whereas the latter may have improved his chances of becoming a national figure eventually by raising his profile among America’s Democratic voters. In a way, that’s damning Castro with faint praise — O’Rourke looked like a legit contender early in the race while Castro never did, making Beto’s performance a major disappointment in hindsight and Castro’s a sort of moral victory. But expectations matter in politics. The most Castro could have hoped for from this run, realistically, was to show he’s engaged on liberal policy priorities and capable of forceful advocacy. He did that. He’s a likelier choice for a spot in the next Democratic administration than O’Rourke is.
Still, the timing really is weird. You would think a candidate who was using the presidential campaign largely as a way to introduce himself to voters ahead of a more plausible run for president down the road would have cut his losses sooner and strongly considered entering the upcoming Texas Senate race against John Cornyn. Beto was touted for that too but ended up passing; Castro, who’s now probably the most prominent Latino Democrat in the country, would have been a strong alternative recruit for Texas Dems instead. But the deadline passed on December 9, raising the question of why Castro didn’t quit a month ago. Maybe he’s convinced that Cornyn is unbeatable next year, particularly with Texas Republicans turning out en masse for a presidential election, but it’ll be a long wait until Cruz’s seat is up again. What’s he going to do with himself to stay relevant between now and 2024, particularly if Trump ends up winning reelection and there’s no Democratic president to appoint Castro to something?
It’s with profound gratitude to all of our supporters that I suspend my campaign for president today.
I’m so proud of everything we’ve accomplished together. I’m going to keep fighting for an America where everyone counts—I hope you’ll join me in that fight. pic.twitter.com/jXQLJa3AdC
— Julián Castro (@JulianCastro) January 2, 2020