If there can only be one star turn, San Antonio mayor Julián Castro’s highly-anticipated keynote speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention wasn’t it. The night belonged to FLOTUS Michelle Obama. “It turned out that Castro was a decoy,” wrote the American Prospect‘s Abby Rapoport.
But as best supporting actors go, the 37-year-old Castro shined, making the case for President Barack Obama and against Mitt Romney while lifting himself–and his Congressional candidate twin brother Joaquin, who introduced him–onto the national political stage.
“Castro’s speech could hardly have been more hyped,” wrote the Atlantic‘s Molly Ball. “In recent weeks, his name was scarcely mentioned without ‘the next Obama’ in the same breath. The first Hispanic to deliver a convention keynote, his billing was a deliberate echo of 2004.”
Indeed, Darren Samuelsohn and Josh Gerstein’s wrap-up for Politico bore the headline “Julian Castro: Obama 2004 redux?” even though the answer in the story was, not quite.
They noted that MSNBC host Chris Matthews called it “one of the great speeches I’ve ever heard” while Fox News commentator Kristen Powers said “a star was born.” Fox’s Karl Rove however, thought the speech was “a sub … an average speech.”
Castro drew attention for his shots at Romney, particularly his mention of the Republican presidential nominee’s recent comments that young people who wanted to become entrepeneurs should borrow money from their parents. As Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times reported, Castro said:
Gee, why didn’t I think of that? …Some people are lucky enough to borrow money from their parents, but that shouldn’t determine whether you can pursue your dreams. I don’t think Governor Romney meant any harm. I think he’s a good guy. He just has no idea how good he’s had it.
And that wasn’t his only sound bite of the night. Politico highlighted Castro’s five best moments in this video:
So what does this mean for Castro’s political future? Texas Monthly‘s Paul Burka put things in perspective:
Castro exceeded expectations … The speech reminded me of Sarah Palin’s acceptance speech for vice president. I was at the GOP convention in 08, and I was struck by her ability to get her emotions into her words. Julian’s speech was similar in that he has a live face and he got his expressions into his words. He wasn’t at all overwhelmed by the moment. There’s a lot of political talent there. It’s just too bad he’s from a state where the Democrats won’t win for a decade.
But that grim reality was also why the moment was exciting for the Texas Democrats in Charlotte, as Emily Ramshaw of the Texas Tribune wrote:
Castro’s speech was thrilling and moving for Texas Democrats, who don’t hold a single statewide elective office but are pinning their hopes on the state’s shifting demographics and young, charismatic leaders like Castro.
“Tonight, being here with Mayor Castro, this is probably as historic a moment as has happened in my lifetime — to see a young Hispanic take the podium in front of millions of people,” said Ben Barnes, a former Texas House speaker, former state lieutenant governor and a major Democratic fundraiser.
Castro’s ethnicity, and the parallels between him and Cuban-American Republican senator Marco Rubio of Florida, was also on the mind of Charles PIerce of Esquire:
About halfway through the keynote address by San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, it occurred to me that he was pretty much giving the same speech Marco Rubio gave in introducing Willard Romney last week in Tampa, although it took Castro only one sentence to mention the name of his party’s nominee, while Rubio took a while to do it….They both have similar stories to tell. Both of their lives can stand for the best this country has to offer. I think, if they sat down together, Julian Castro and Marco Rubio might disagree on tax policy, but, otherwise, they’d have a lot more in common than their respective political parties would have you believe. And therein lies the difference.
What the president did in allowing the children of undocumented immigrants to become citizens was Marco Rubio’s idea, but only Julian Castro got to brag about it at a convention. Only Castro got to make the incontrovertible point that, “In the end, the American Dream is not a sprint, or even a marathon, but a relay. Our families don’t always cross the finish line in one generation. But each generation passes on to the next generation the fruits of their labors…. My mother fought for civil rights so that instead of a mop, I could hold this microphone.”
As many noted, including ABC’s live blog, that line directly echoed Rubio, who had said of his father, “He stood behind a bar in the back of the room all those years, so one day I could stand behind a podium in the front of a room.”
Rick Dunham of the Houston Chronicle also drew parallels between Castro and Texas Republican senate candidate Ted Cruz. “Watching Castro and Cruz is like watching a high school all-star game,” Dan Schnur, director of Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California, told Dunham. “We’re going to be watching these players competing in higher levels through many, many years.”
And at the San Antonio Express-News, Gary Martin and Josh Baugh watched the speech with San Antonians, cheering on their local boy made good:
“I had to hold back tears because I’m so proud of this guy,” said Elicio Olivarez, who like Castro, grew up on the West Side.
“It’s always a battle growing up on the West Side, but I hope some kid in elementary saw that speech tonight and was inspired to try and be the next mayor, to try and change things for the better.”
On Twitter, in between the lame jokes about the name “Castro” and the slightly less lame “how do we know that’s really not Joaquin” jokes (a funnier, and, at least in the context of the Texas Democratic party, ironic take came from @pourmecoffee), there was much love for Castro’s anecdote about his grandmother winning a menudo cook-off and using the $300 to pay for his and Joaquin’s birth.
— Flavia de la Fuente (@Flavia_Isabel) September 5, 2012
Conservative skeptics were well-armed with a talking point from a recent New York Times Magazine profile of the Castro brothers, in which their mother, longtime labor activist Rosa Castro, had expressed her distaste for the Alamo.
— Dana Loesch (@DLoesch) September 5, 2012
But Castro had already addressed that in an interview with NPR’S All Things Considered:
“We’re in a different America today than my mother and grandmother grew up in,” he said. “So, of course, since the circumstances have changed, the politics are different…. This generation of minority elected officials is less burdened than we would have been 40 years ago, 50 years ago.”
Castro’s mother and identical twin weren’t the only family members to get attention. A cutaway to Carina Victoria Castro, his three-year-old daughter sticking out her tongue and flipping her hair, quickly became a BuzzFeed GIF:
For more on the Castro brothers, read Jan Jarboe Russell’s May 2010 profile for Texas Monthly, which includes this exchange between Barack Obama and then-35-year-old Julián.
“I thought you were on staff, maybe an intern,” said Obama, ribbing Castro. “Are you really a mayor?”
“San Antonio, Texas,” Castro shot back, taking no guff.
“Just kidding,” said Obama, who knows a thing or two about what it’s like to be representative of demographic change. “I know exactly who you are.”