Julian Castro's convention keynote: As good as Obama's in '04?

The San Antonio mayor steps out of obscurity to deliver a rousing speech, earning gushing comparisons to the '04 version of a certain soon-to-be president

San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro
(Image credit: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

On Tuesday night, Julian Castro stepped onto the stage of the Democratic National Convention as a little-known mayor from one of America's reddest states. Mere moments later, the San Antonio mayor stepped off the stage a political star. With an impressive and stirring speech, the handsome and charismatic Castro, 37, showed "why some Democrats are comparing him to another once-obscure but powerful keynote speaker," says Darren Samuelsohn and Josh Gerstein at Politico: Barack Obama in 2004. After being introduced by his twin brother (also a Texas politician), the Harvard-educated Castro detailed his "long journey" up from poverty ("My grandmother never owned a house," he said. "She cleaned other people's houses so she could afford to rent her own.") to the halls of Harvard all the way to big office in City Hall. Castro also took some deft swipes at GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney. "I think he's a good guy," said Castro, offering an anecdote in which Romney told college kids to "borrow from their parents" to start their own businesses. "He just has no idea how good he's had it." (Watch the speech below.) Was Castro as good as Obama was in 2004?

Castro was nearly as good as Obama: The similarities between the two men are obvious, says Alana Semuels at the Los Angeles Times: "Young politicians from minority groups, graduates of Harvard Law School raised by single mothers." But Castro is a different breed than Obama, "more humble than power-hungry," and more likely to serve in his home state of Texas than "to make a jump for Washington." And while Castro had fewer memorable turns of phrase than Obama did in 2004, on Tuesday night, the Democrats clearly found a new star.

"Julian Castro takes spotlight at Democratic convention"

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He wasn't perfect, but he really sliced and diced Romney: Castro's speech "wandered in a couple of spots," and some of his rhetoric failed to connect, says Michael Tomasky at The Daily Beast. But Castro started to "catch fire" when he went after Romney, scoring big-time by nailing the Republican for unintentionally inspiring ObamaCare: "Romney says 'no' to the middle class and women's rights and gay marriage and health… Well, actually, Mitt Romney said 'yes' to health care." Castro demonstrated "oratorical skill that I'd guess a lot of mayors who've never been on the national stage probably don't have."

"Casto and others: What enthusiasm gap?"

And to thrive, the Dems need Latino leaders like Castro: In the last eight years, Latinos have become the fastest growing voting bloc in the U.S., says Adam Sorensen at TIME, and they're "beginning to look like the core of the Democratic Party." But Republicans have bested Democrats in recruiting top-talent Latino leaders to vouch for their party, like Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Govs. Brian Sandoval (Nev.) and Susana Martinez (N.M.). Democrats, on the other hand, "have few big-name Latinos on the roster," especially with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's national prospects dimming thanks to ethics violations and extramarital affairs. This dearth of talent has "only increased Democrats' hope — or hype, as Republicans tell it — that Castro can take on a big role in the future."

"A different kind of hope: San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro Addresses the DNC"

Read more political coverage at The Week's 2012 Election Center.

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