How unfortunate for Julián Castro, the wonder boy from San Antonio, to be sandwiched in between the two best speakers of the night — the inspirational Governor Deval Patrick and the exquisite act by the First Lady.
I can’t say enough about the styles and messages of Mr. Patrick and Mrs. Obama. Both brought heart and soul to the Democratic Convention. Both evoked the values of the Party, the fire of conviction Democrats often wished consumed their gun-shy leaders when faced against the irritatingly hubristic style of folks like Paul Ryan or Ron Paul or Rand Paul or Eric Cantor or Steve King.
Mrs. Obama was both gorgeous and bold.
As Patrick spoke and gained momentum just before Castro was to take the stage, I could not stop wondering why the Democrats didn’t have a Tim Pawlenty in the lineup they could have thrown in before Castro to make him look electric by comparison. It’s almost as if the Party was trying to teach the kid a lesson.
Julián Castro was sent off with much fanfare in his hometown of San Antonio, and the overjoyed crowd gave me the eerie feeling that he was less a conqueror and more like Lord Cardigan leading his cavalry in the Charge of the Light Brigade. “Into the mouth of hell, rode the six hundred,” goes Tennyson’s famous poem depicting the brigade’s noble, yet naïve, frontal assault.
Both Castro brothers continued their narrative of modest beginnings. Like Susana Martinez, the Governor of New Mexico, or Senator Marco Rubio, who also evoke their past, the Castro brothers seem overdone in their stories. With degrees from Stanford and Harvard, it’s a little tough for anyone to empathize with the “aw shucks, we’re just glad to be here” narrative, as when Julián said that instead of a microphone he may be holding a mop.
The problem is that if you keep telling people this narrative, pretty soon they’re going to believe you, and nobody wants to be led by some guy with mop-duty potential.
Unlike Rubio, Castro didn’t act like he belongs there despite the modest origins. He does not give you the impression that he owns his position as a leader. Even Mitt Romney makes you think that there is no doubt in his mind he should be the one talking and you should be the one listening. This is a leadership quality that you can’t really teach. He should take style pointers from Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who, if nothing else, is unmistakable in his self-assurance that he should be up in the front of wherever he goes.
As I reflected on the lineup, and how overwhelmed Castro was by his placement, it made me wonder if the Obamas weren’t looking beyond 2012. As in, perhaps a run by Michelle Obama for President is in the works. She certainly looked and spoke like a polished politician, and I think anyone who saw that performance has to be thinking about her potential. America’s first black female president.
I sure hope Condoleeza Rice was listening, because if the Democrats are thinking of pulling a historical moment like that, you can bet the Republicans will be digging into their own lineup for a response.
Castro is a good kid. As smart as they come. San Antonio is a well run city and he deserves a lot of credit for that. But where will he go from there? Is it possible for him to be elected governor of Texas? I’d say not, at least not for a while. It’s hard to tell what his pathway to the top will look like. It’s certainly possible, but if he plans on climbing to the top of the ladder, he should start acting like he belongs there.
Stephen A. Nuño, Ph.D., NBC Latino contributor and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Politics and International Affairs at Northern Arizona University. He is currently writing a book on Republican outreach into the Latino Community.