Julián Castro earned rave reviews for his debate performance, but it was even better than it looked

  • Julián Castro‘s debate performance has drawn rave reviews.
  • But it was actually better than you think: Castro’s support base as it stands also tends to like Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Beto O’Rourke, and Amy Klobuchar.
  • By performing well among those same candidates, Castro could cement his support and lunge into the top tier.
  • This stage of the race is about staking out a constituency and pushing others out of that lane. Castro showed he’s able to do that.

Based on the initial reactions, analysis, and even some tech-based monitoring systems, observers are in agreement former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro had a great night.

The lasting impact of this will be seen in the coming days, and it remains to be seen whether the second debate night or another news event will eat into Castro’s ability to capitalise on his performance.

But still, just glancing at the numbers we’ve been compiling thanks to a recurring INSIDER poll conducted on SurveyMonkey Audience, Castro couldn’t have picked a more opportune batch of rivals. Every week or so, we conduct a survey of about 1,100 U.S. adults asking which candidates they’re aware of and who they’d be satisfied with in the event that they were nominee.

Read more about how the INSIDER primary tracker works

This is a little different than how most pollsters approach the question, which is to ask about respondents favourite candidate or perhaps who they’d fall back on.

What it allows us to do – in situations like this – is analyse overlaps in support.

What percentage of Booker supporters like Castro? Based on the 10 polls we’ve conducted since March, about 26%.

Is that higher or lower than Castro’s performance overall among people who said that they’d vote in the Democratic primary? It’s a bit higher.

This way, we can draw conclusions about which candidates may be running for the same voters. And using this data, Castro could not have impressed a more crucial crowd.

Read more: An obscure section of US law became a flashpoint in the Democratic debate and sparked a confrontation between Julián Castro and Beto O’Rourke. Here’s why it’s so controversial.

Since March, we polled 4,324 people who said they were registered to vote and would likely participate in their state’s Democratic primary or caucus. About a third of those people had heard of Castro, and a majority of those who had heard of him did not have an opinion either way about him, 55%.

This is a great position to be in, it leaves lots of room for growth.

Democratic presidential hopefuls (fromL) Former US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro, US Senator from New Jersey Cory Booker and US Senator from Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren chat during a break in the first Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season hosted by NBC News at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, Florida, June 26, 2019. (Photo by JIM WATSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty ImagesJulian Castro, Cory Booker, and Elizabeth Warren.

About a quarter of those who’d heard of him would be satisfied with him as nominee. Who else did those 356 respondents like?

  • The most popular candidate for existing Castro fans is Sen. Kamala Harris, who 77% of Castro fans like, which is a stellar 27 percentage points higher than the 50% of Democrats who would be satisfied with her overall. This means that someone who is a Castro supporter is also disproportionately likely to like Harris as well. Harris is at the other debate.
  • Castro fans are also very likely to like Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Beto O’Rourke and Amy Klobuchar. They comprised Castro’s direct competition last night, and he shined. Castro’s fans have said they’d be satisfied with Booker 69% of the time, Warren 68% of the time, O’Rourke 60% of the time, and Klobuchar 51% of the time.
  • Those numbers may seem high, but in context those numbers are really, really high. Booker’s 69% among Castro fans is 30 percentage points higher than his performance generally, a massive jump. Warren plays 20 percentage points higher among Castro fans than typical, O’Rourke 19 percentage points, and Klobuchar 21 percentage points.

The point is that Castro needed to perform well, but also to perform well in front of an audience that could hypothetically come around to supporting him. Not only did we see him do well, he also impressed in front of the very constituencies most pre-disposed towards liking him.

Read more: Julián Castro managed to break from the pack and dominate the stage at the first 2020 Democratic debate

With no votes for several months, the key use of time now is to assemble a viable constituency and compel direct ideological rivals to exit the race.

A subpar performance last night could have doomed Castro, as supporters who are already interested in other candidates could have pursued greener pastures. But but beating expectations, Castro may not only hold on to his support but expand it.

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