Politics

Future Dem star Julian Castro takes the national stage

Future Dem star Julian Castro takes the national stage

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — John Glenn watched his hopes of being on the national ticket go down in flames after a much-criticized keynote address at the 1976 Democratic National Convention. Barack Obama, of course, made such a stirring keynote address at the 2004 convention that he was catapulted into the presidential race himself in ’08.

Judging from the reaction of the audience and individual delegates at the Democratic conclave here on Tuesday, San Antonio, Texas Mayor Julian Castro’s address rose above the level of Glenn’s and, while probably not reaching that of Obama, marked him as a Democrat to watch for tomorrow.

Introduced by his twin brother, Texas State Rep. Joaquin Castro, the first Hispanic American to keynote a Democratic convention recalled the immigrant roots of his family and especially the sacrifices their grandmother made for the family.

“My family’s story isn’t special,” said the 37-year-old Castro. “With hard work, everybody ought to be able to get there (the middle class) and, with hard work, everybody ought to be able to go beyond.”

He spoke of opportunity, and how in San Antonio, “we know you can’t be pro-business unless you’re pro-education … we’re investing in young minds today to be competitive in business tomorrow.”

America’s “investment in opportunity,” he said to cheers, “makes it possible.”

Sounding a theme the Obama campaign is likely to pick up, they keynote speaker declared: “Opportunity today, prosperity tomorrow.” He took a few whacks at the Republican nominee — “Mitt Romney just doesn’t get it” — and said of Romney’s suggestion to students to start a business by borrowing money from their parents, “Gee. Why didn’t I think of that?”

“He’s undergone an extreme makeover,” Castro said of Romney, “and it ain’t pretty.”

He did get around to speaking of the president sharing his vision of opportunity, and repeated what previous speakers said about Obama “saving the auto industry” and fighting for taxes “in which the middle class pays less and millionaires pay more.

But Castro spoke much more about his family’s background, and spirited salvos against Romney and what he called “all the fictions we heard in Tampa last week” than he did about Obama. There was little doubt that the mayor was, to use a line of previous speakers, “looking forward and not backward.”

Castro was one of six big-city mayors to have a major speaking role at the Charlotte convention. As the Hispanic American population in his native (and now solidly Republican) Texas keeps growing, some Republicans — among them present, U.S. Senate nominee Ted Cruz — have warned that unless the GOP improves its standing among that group, the Lone Star State’s governorship and Senate seats might easily flip from Republican to Democrat.

Could Cruz and others have been thinking of Julian Castro when they issued that warning? Judging from their reaction to Castro’s first appearance before them and a national audience, the Democrats at the Charlotte convention clearly think so.

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