Democratic Primary Exit Survey: Julián Castro

Julián Castro was never going to be president. Some considered him a potential sleeper candidate heading into the Democratic primary but the former Housing and Urban Development Secretary never rose over low single digits in any major national polls. And on Thursday he finally ended his campaign altogether.

Castro was the only Latino candidate in the Democratic field and made immigration issues central to his campaign. He advocated loudly for the decriminalization of border crossings and highlighted the inhumanity of the Trump administration’s family separation. He supported a variation of Medicare For All and explained how he’d combat rising white nationalism in America.

But Castro’s biggest primary moment was calling out Joe Biden’s forgetfulness during the September debate. The attack came at the height of social media commentary about Biden’s campaign trail doddering and his plan to scale back on public events. It was the closest Castro came to commanding the primary’s full attention, but it never translated into real buzz or polling bumps.

Despite his inability to break through, Castro’s dropout announcement feels disappointing. Democratic voters expressed similar feelings when Kamala Harris left the race—it’s frustrating to watch qualified candidates of color fall out of a primary mostly dominated by white men, especially as billionaires like Michael Bloomberg casually throw their hat in the ring. Pete Buttigieg was a common Castro comparison as a small town mayor doing his best Barack Obama impersonation. Castro served as mayor of San Antonio, a city 15 times larger than Buttigieg’s and actually worked for Obama’s administration but could barely garner a fraction of the polling and media attention Mayor Pete’s received. To his credit, Buttigieg has done a far better job branding and soullessly selling himself out to billionaires and corporate interests. But it also helps that Buttigieg is an affluent young white guy, and Castro isn’t.

On the bright side, Castro is just 45 years old. A Texas Senate or gubernatorial run could be in his future or perhaps another White House job. But it simply wasn’t his time to ascend to the country’s highest office and it was refreshing to hear him plainly admit it, disappointing though his campaign may have been.