I know what you’re thinking.
Looking ahead to the 2016 election the day after President Obama was re-elected is pretty much the classic example of the media getting ahead of itself with unlikely fancies. But when do you think Mitt Romney decided he would challenge Obama in 2012? Was it the night John McCain lost or the next morning? It was likely the second he lost the nomination to McCain himself. So looking ahead to 2016 is fair game, and when you do, what you see is a Democratic Party that is ripe for the taking by Hillary Clinton.
Now Clinton has repeatedly said she won’t run and plenty of Democrats would also have an eye on 2016. Someone like Andrew Cuomo comes to mind. But during the Democratic National Convention there were reports that his people were asking party heavyweights if they would support Hillary if she runs. The tea leaves were clear: If she’s running, the party will support her, and challengers will melt away.
If Hillary Clinton is running for president in 2016 — she may win or she may lose — but San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro will be her vice presidential nominee.
This is how we get there.
Clinton would come in to the campaign as an experienced, respected leader. Her bonafides are clear, and unlike Obama who was required to select an experienced guiding hand like Joe Biden in 2008, Clinton would be free to choose whoever she likes.
So why Castro? Maybe you weren’t paying attention as the election results rolled in on Tuesday.
The 2012 election proved that 2008 was no fluke. America is a land of changed demographics, less about center-right conventional wisdom and more about ascendant voting groups making their voices heard. Latinos supported Obama’s re-election by a 75 to 23 margin nationally, rejecting the Republican party as currently constituted. These Latino voters — who everyone is talking about now as if this was the first time they ever voted in a presidential election — are 63 percent Mexican-American according to the 2010 Census — and so is Julian Castro.
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Castro, the first Latino to give the keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention has a biography to match Obama’s — if not his soaring oratory skills. Castro’s mother was a civil rights activist for Mexican-American rights and he attended Stanford as well as Harvard Law School. Castro is also the youngest mayor of one of America’s 50 largest cities.
In the run up to the election, there was a notion that Latino politicians equal Latino votes. It’s as absurd as expecting all women to vote for Clinton just because she is too. While Republicans have done a better job than Democrats of grooming successful Latino politicians like Marco Rubio, Brian Sandoval and Susanna Martinez, it is an open question as to how Republican Latinos would do in front of a national electorate in light of the party’s tarnished standing with Hispanic voters right now.
But a ticket with a young, charismatic, Latino leader from the party most Latinos have supported in recent elections would be a different story, and the pride and historic nature of the chance to elect the first Latino vice president can not be discounted.
Stephen Nuño, Northern Arizona University political science professor and NBC Latino contributor sees an opportunity for a Clinton/Castro ticket.
“My guess is both parties are looking for ways to bridge the past with the future,” he says. “A Clinton/Castro ticket would certainly fit that role. I don’t think Castro would have a problem with that in four years and with the proper nurturing from the seasoned veterans, he can be a force in national politics.”
Nuño says Castro would have to make careful choices in the next few years because “his biggest problem is determining a pathway up the ladder in a state that is still managing a way to deal with the changing demographics” but that Castro is one of the few Latinos on the Democratic landscape who may actually resonate nationally.
So it all starts to make sense now. Bill Clinton barnstorming for Obama — going wherever the campaign needed him, as often as they asked. As the New York Times wrote, many believe this was about ensuring an optimal environment for Hillary to run as it was about ensuring Obama’s re-election. How do you think Obama might repay the Clintons? One can envision him traveling the country, whipping up the Democratic base and becoming the de facto fundraising cash cow for the Democrats for years to come. Now you have Hillary, with the first African-American president deeply in her corner. In a changing America, the only thing you would need is a strong Latino presence to signal to Hispanic voters that their voices matter and have been heard loud and clear.