Saturday, April 25, 2015

Hillary Clinton Should Pick One of the Castro Brothers as a Running Mate and Do It Now (Plus which one she should pick)

Joaquín Castro, Hillary Clinton and Julián Castro
Candidates typically don't announce their choice of running mate until just before or at the party convention, but here are six reasons Hillary Clinton should pick one of the Castro brothers and do it now. Let's game this out, but first, a little background on the Castro brothers.

Joaquín and Julián Castro are 41 year old twin brothers from San Antonio, Texas and rising stars in the Democratic Party. They are both highly accomplished and have compelling stories. The twins were raised by their mother, Rosie Castro, who was active in the Chicano Movement and helped to found the La Raza Unida political party. They credit their mother for inspiring their interest in political careers.

The twins attended Stanford together, where they both served in the student senate, tying for the most votes of any candidate. Both earned B.S. degrees in two majors, political science and communications. Both went to Harvard Law School, where they both earned Juris Doctorate degrees. After Harvard both joined Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, a prestigious international law firm anchored in Washington D.C with offices all over the country and around the world. They left Akin Gump to form their own law firm. Both then entered into politics.

Joaquín and Julián Castro 

Joaquín Castro is currently a member of the U.S House of Representatives, where he represents Texas' 20th Congressional District. He serves on the Armed Services Committee and the Committee on Foreign Affairs. Before that he spent ten years in the Texas House of Representatives, where he co-chaired the Committee on Higher Education and served on the committees for County Affairs, Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence and Oversight of Higher Education Governance & Transparency. 

Julián Castro is currently serving in Barack Obama’s Cabinet as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. In 2001 he was elected to the San Antonio City Council, at 26 the youngest person ever elected to the Council. In 2009 he was elected Mayor of San Antonio, the seventh largest city in the United States with a population of about 1.5 million. In 2013 he won his third term as Mayor. In July of 2014 he resigned as Mayor to take his current position in the Cabinet.

Julián Castro throws a first pitch strike at a Texas Rangers game
The brothers came to the attention of a national audience in 2012, when Joaquín introduced his brother at the Democratic National Convention. Julián delivered the keynote address at the convention, an honor reserved for the best and brightest rising stars in the party. In 2004 a little known first term Senator from Illinois, Barack Obama, delivered the keynote address.

So, why should Hillary Clinton pick one of these brothers, why should she do it now and which one should she pick?

1. Picking one of the Castro brothers as her running mate and announcing it now would essentially put an end to the race for the Democratic nomination.

Yes, the primary process is an excellent way to season a candidate and a campaign, but Hillary Clinton has been here before. The beginning of her 2016 race shows she learned a great deal from her unsuccessful run in 2008 and from her two successful Senate campaigns in New York.

In 2008 Clinton’s campaign tried to exude an air of inevitability, but the party was badly fractured. Most of the power players in the party lined up behind Clinton, but the Democratic National Committee, headed by Howard Dean, who made a splash in the 2004 primaries, supported Barack Obama. Obama had adopted Dean’s 50 state strategy of contesting every race in every state. He implemented this strategy by focusing on the ground game, especially in smaller states the higher profile campaigns mostly ignored. He concentrated on generating interest with younger voters and used his ground game to push them to participate in primaries and caucuses, which they did in record numbers.

Howard Dean announcing his run for the 2004 Democratic nomination
It wasn't just the party that was fractured. Deep divisions existed inside of Hillary Clinton’s campaign. These divisions began to leak into the press in the form of bad mouthing and back stabbing, always on background. Clinton herself shifted from trying to remain above the fray to aggressively attacking Obama, who was steadily gaining ground. What was supposed to be a coronation turned into a death match. The deciding factor turned out to be the overall message of the two campaigns. While Clinton emphasized experience and expertise, Barack Obama’s message was hope and change. After eight years of George Bush, Obama’s message resonated with the party base and the electorate in general.

The other common argument in favor of an extended primary process is it allows issues important to the base that might not otherwise get a hearing to come out. The first few days of Hillary Clinton’s campaign show that not only has she learned from her campaign missteps in 2008, she’s also moved to the left with a much more populist, progressive message. In 2008 she delivered anodyne, centrist speeches. She didn't take chances. She never veered from the centrist path.

In her fist day on the trail in this time around she lamented the CEO/worker pay gap and crushing student debt, echoing Obama’s call for free community college for everyone. She called for an end to “unaccountable money” in the political system, even if it took a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. She also called on the Supreme Court to give constitutional protection to same sex marriages. Someone just reading the transcripts might think it was Elizabeth Warren speaking.

Nowhere is the difference in Hillary 2008 and Hillary 2016 more readily apparent than in the video announcements of her candidacy.  The 2008 announcement video was all Hillary Clinton speaking straight into the camera while delivering the kind of inoffensive fodder that all but screamed, “It’s my time!”

We don’t even see Hillary in her 2016 announcement until a minute and a half into the two minute video. Instead, we see a diverse group of people, young, old, singles, couples, white black, Asian, Hispanic, same sex couples, all talking about transitions in their own lives.  Hillary hits some populist notes then says she’s getting ready to do something, too. She’s running for president, “Because it’s your time.” The contrast from the 2008 video couldn't be more stark.

Hillary Clinton is as seasoned a campaigner as she’ll ever be. On the issues she was always well to the left of Bill, and now she’s not afraid to show it. She obviously took her meeting with Elizabeth Warren seriously, and she’s carrying populist, progressive messages into this race. Speaking of progressives, right now many on the left flank are not happy with the prospect of Hillary Clinton as the nominee. The sooner she can essentially end the race, the sooner she can begin to work on party unity and work to win over progressive voters, with the help of progressive standard bearers like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, who are sure to support her in the end.

Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren
From a logistical point of view, the race is already over. The days of raising a few million dollars and hand-shaking through the primaries hoping to catch fire and attract donors are over.  In a post Citizens United world, it takes huge piles of cash to compete. Hillary Clinton campaign projects raising $2 billion. No other prospective candidate can come close to this staggering figure. In the post Citizen’s United days, any candidate can stick it out if they have their own billionaire, but so far none of the other Democratic hopefuls have landed a whale. From a purely monetary point of view, no one else can last beyond Iowa and New Hampshire in late January or at the longest, South Carolina in mid-February.

This raises a problem. With the race all but over now, and almost surely over by mid-February, there will be no one left for Hillary to debate. My suggestion would be to do debates, but focus them on the issues, not the candidates. Allow Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, and any other high profile Democrat who wishes to participate, to champion their issues in a casual open forum format, rather than a formal debate format, with Hillary listening and then responding to all of them. This kind of soft debate would go a long way in bringing disaffected progressives on board and energizing them to participate.

2. The GOP is already saying, “She’s old.” She can blunt this attack with someone young on the ticket.

In Marco Rubio’s speech announcing his campaign for the GOP nomination, he made references to Hillary Clinton’s age more than a dozen times. Even the theme of his campaign, A New American Century, (this despite the fact that the new American century began 15 years ago) was a jibe at Hillary Clinton.  Because subtlety is often lost on Republican voters, he came right out and said, “Just yesterday a leader from yesterday began a campaign for president by promising to take us back to yesterday.”

Marco Rubio's infamous water bottle moment while,delivering the GOP Response to Barack Obama's State of the Union speech
Rubio was the first candidate to embrace what has so far been a smear campaign championed mostly by the right wing noise machine. Obviously one of the major lines of attack against Hillary Clinton will be, “She’s old,” but only because, “She has a vagina,” sounds worse. This line of attack might seem strange coming from the party that elected Reagan, who was also 68, and nominated John McCain, who was 72, but consistency, like subtlety, has never been a conservative strong point.

Photoshopped images of Hillary Clinton abound in the Wingnutosphere-  "She's Old" has now leaked into mainstream GOP candidate talking points
The easiest way to blunt this attack is to balance the ticket with someone young. The GOP did it in 2008, though the VP nominee they picked had the qualifications of a boiled cabbage. But at 44, she was young and attractive and it did at least temporarily revive a campaign that was covered in cobwebs. Not only are the Castros young and attractive, unlike Sarah Palin they’re also highly intelligent and highly accomplished and they can speak in complete sentences

3. The Hispanic vote.

Barack Obama won 63% of the Hispanic vote in the last election. The GOP knows they need to increase their share of this important demographic if they are to have a chance to win in 2016. Marco Rubio may not be able to win the nomination, but he does have a very good chance of landing the second spot on the ticket, even if Jeb Bush, also from Florida, is the nominee. Under normal circumstance you’d never see both nominees come from the same state, but the only other Hispanic the GOP has on tap is Ted Cruz, and it’s highly unlikely that Jeb Bush, or anyone else but Ted Cruz, would run with Ted Cruz. Also, polls show that Jeb might not be able to deliver Florida on his own. Rubio would go a long way towards winning a big state that has been a linchpin of recent elections.

A Bush/Rubio ticket is a real possibility
Putting Joaquín or Julián Castro on the ticket would assure Democrats not only getting at least the 63% of the Hispanic vote they got last time, and probably more, it would increase turnout among Hispanics, meaning more Hispanic votes overall. This would make the math for a GOP path to the White House very difficult. It would also accomplish something else, which may be the best reason of all, especially for those of us who live in Texas and long for the day the Lone Star State turns blue.

4. It would put Texas in play. Yes, Texas.

No Democratic presidential candidate has won Texas since Jimmy Carter in 1976. No Democrat has been elected to a state-wide office in Texas since 1994. This is the longest Democratic dry spell in any state, ever. The latest polls in the state show Hillary Clinton doing surprisingly well. In head to head match-ups against the top GOP contenders she gets 40-44% of the vote. Add one of the Castro brothers to the ticket and it might provide enough of a spark for Hillary Clinton to win Texas, and with it 38 electoral votes the GOP simply cannot afford to lose.

Adding Joaquín or Julián Castro to the ticket would energize Texas Hispanics to register and vote in record numbers. It would also pry away some older, more conservative Hispanics who have been voting Republican. Finally, it would energize younger voters to register and turn out in record numbers. The combination of these three factors just might be enough to get Hillary Clinton over the hump. Winning Texas would be a stunning achievement, but with the help of the Castro brothers she just might be able to pull it off. At the very least, it would force the GOP to use precious resources in the form of candidate time and mountains of money to defend turf they consider to be their own.

5. It would energize the youth vote.

Not only would putting Joaquín or Julián Castro on the ticket help fight off the negative “She’s old” argument, it would have the positive effect of energizing younger voters. We know younger voters skew heavily liberal on the issues. We also know they are the most difficult demographic to get to the polls. Compare 2008 and 2012, when the youth vote turned out in record numbers and Democrats won from top to bottom, to 2010 and 2014, when young voters stayed home and Democrats suffered record losses. Arguably the single biggest factor in Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 wins was his success in getting young voters to turn out. If Hillary can turn out younger voters in similar numbers, she wins, period.

The youth vote that propelled Barack Obama to victory in 2008 and 2012 is vital to Hillary Clinton's chances in 2016
6. The female vote.

This one is almost taken for granted, but it shouldn't be. In recent national elections women have skewed heavily Democratic. This demographic is likely to skew even more heavily Democratic with the historic prospect of the first female president. This doesn't mean Democrats should take women for granted.

Hillary Clinton will almost certainly win the majority of votes cast by women, but she also needs to increase turnout among women. The way to do that is to address the issues most important to women, including equal pay, glass ceiling discrimination, family issues, social justice issues, reproductive rights and education. It can sound a bit creepy when older men talk about these issues, but a young, fresh face, someone who’s spoken to these issues for their entire political career, someone with a compelling story to tell of being raised by a strong, political single mother, that’s an entirely different matter. Joaquín or Julián Castro would be a net positive with women far more so than anyone else in the running.

Bonus Reasons

There are bonus reasons why picking one of the Castros would be a smart move for the Clinton campaign. Both of them are squeaky clean. There’s never been so much as a hint of scandal around either of them. One of the roles of the VP nominee is to play attack dog and take it to the opposition more aggressively than the presidential nominee can. Someone with a spotless reputation, like the Castros, will come in handy to rebut the screams of, “Benghazi! Benghazi! Benghazi!” that are sure to come from the GOP camp.

Finally, picking one of the Castro twins brings one more advantage no other VP pick can deliver. After the convention the two nominees usually campaign separately to maximize precious time. There are a few major campaign events where both nominees appear, but most of the time they appear at different events on the same day. Picking one of the Castro twins is like having an extra VP nominee. It's as close as you can get to a two-for-one pick.

Which one should Hillary pick?

Joaquín and Julián Castro are identical twins with almost identical qualifications and achievements. Either would make a great choice, but there is one area where one of these brothers has an edge when it comes to anchoring a national ticket. While Joaquín is engaged to his long time sweetheart, Ana Flores, his brother Julián is already a family man, with an attractive wife, Erica Lira Castro, and two beautiful children, Carina and Cristian. A  telegenic family is an asset in any race. Because of this and his experience in Washington, the edge goes to Julián. Joaquín will have to settle for a Senate seat, or perhaps the Governor’s Mansion in Austin. Who knows? Perhaps it won’t be long before we see a Castro and Castro ticket.

The winning Democratic ticket for 2016 is Hillary Clinton and Julián Castro

John Avignone writes about politics for Salon and other outlets.