January 25, 2016

Julian Castro: The Possible Face Of Clinton’s Say Or Do Anything Candidacy

Today, House and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro continues his campaign to be Clinton’s Vice Presidential pick, by stumping for her in New Hampshire. Yet as Politico reported last week, Castro is gliding by on his biography, when in reality he has no tangible achievements to point to either as San Antonio mayor, a part time job that paid $3,000 a year, or as HUD Secretary.

As Politico notes, a Castro as VP pick would reflect, in part, the decimated Democratic bench:

“But if Clinton picks him to be her running mate, it’ll be more about perfectly fitting his party’s moment and the nearly non-existent Democratic bench than about his 18 months as a HUD secretary who hasn’t left a deep mark at his agency, the White House or the housing world.”

Castro isn’t helping his case by seemingly being more interested in using his cabinet perch to promote himself than getting into the weeds of actual policy making. For Castro, what matters is “being on the right platform.” Developing house policy, not so much:

“When detailed policy questions about housing and mortgage financing came up, those people said, he’d freeze up. He seems genuinely interested in helping people, they’d say, but not interested enough in HUD policy to want to engage deeply. ‘People like Julián Castro and he’s not stopping them from doing their work,’ said one person familiar with the Department. ‘He’s also not driving it. He’s not interested and engaged like that. But it’s hard not to like him.’”

One HUD insider was quick to compare Castro to his predecessor Shaun Donovan. Castro got rid of Donovan’s “endless policy brainstorming sessions,” which makes sense if you, like Castro, need to be in Iowa and New Hampshire regularly. Castro also replaced Donovan’s “giant briefing books” with “one-page summaries with very clearly defined options.”

Castro is a politician in a hurry. Yet unfortunately for him, he might be running up against an ironclad law of presidential politics.

When picking a Vice Presidential nominee, a presidential campaign likes to look for someone to help balance the ticket. That’s bad luck for Secretary Julian Castro. Two failed Obama cabinet secretaries is one too many for a possible Clinton Democratic ticket.