And yet Elizabeth Warren is the “policy candidate.” And Pete Buttigieg, seven years younger than Castro, is the Millennial Mayor candidate. Joe Biden is the one with better ties to the Obama administration. And even though Castro proposes taxing inheritances of $2 million or more, raising the capital gains tax rate, providing a $3,000 per child tax credit, paid family and medical leave and a $15 nationwide minimum wage, Bernie Sanders is the candidate known for fighting income inequality. And somehow, despite being able to trace his lineage to the American colonies of the 18th century, Beto O’Rourke, a son of El Paso and fluent in Spanish, has become the candidate of immigration and the new Texas.
That, and the fact that both the national media and the party’s progressive wing had begun to tire of O’Rourke’s schtick, made him an inviting target for any candidate looking to make a name for themselves. But when Castro went after O’Rourke in the debate, it was the first time any of the candidates had targeted any other onstage.
“I knew we were going to address immigration, and I thought we would have a point of difference,” said Castro, who had spent weeks before the first debate looking at late-night YouTube videos of Democratic presidential primary debates going back to 1988. “I think of it like Tom Brady looking at game film,” he said. “I had that ready just in case.”
The reviews of Castro’s were good and should have garnered him a second look from voters and a polling bump. But they didn’t. For whatever reason, the path-breaking Latino candidate with an easy command of the intricacies of immigration policy didn’t see his numbers improve, especially after his call to decriminalize border crossing was copied by much of the rest of the field. The incident echoed, in some respects, his near-miss with the Clinton campaign in 2016.