- Julián Castro has exited the 2020 Democratic primary, with weeks to go until votes begin.
- He had trouble getting name recognition, in part thanks to tough DNC debate eligibility requirements.
- Castro instantly becomes a sought-after endorsement and rockets to the top of any Vice Presidential contender list.
- His supporters like Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Cory Booker.
- A third of Sen. Amy Klobuchar‘s supporters like Castro as well as a quarter of Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s.
Julián Castro, the San Antonio mayor who served in the Obama administration as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, has exited the primary.
Castro struggled to get widespread support, but despite his exit he’s going to remain a consequential player moving forward. Insider has been polling the 2020 Democratic field through SurveyMonkey Audience for over a year, and specifically asking those who say they’re registered to vote and will probably participate in the Democratic primary who they’d be satisfied with as nominee.
You can download every poll here, down to the individual respondent data, and see the sample size and margin of error for all four of the polls we cite here. (Read more about how the Insider 2020 Democratic primary tracker works.)
Based on that data, Castro’s support doesn’t seem as small as his topline polling numbers would have you believe, and he’s going to be a force in this campaign for quite some time. Here’s why, and who stands to gain the most.
Castro’s support was slim, but everyone wants a piece of it
Based on the seven polls Insider conducted since late October, Castro was seen as a satisfactory nominee by about 22% of Democrats who’d heard of him and about 10% of the electorate overall. That’s clearly not enough to win an election, but it is enough to throw some serious weight around in a primary.
His supporters are still deciding between lots of candidates, but a few frontrunners have emerged. More than four out of five of Castro’s supporters like Sen. Elizabeth Warren, which is 21 percentage points higher than her overall performance among Democrats. And 69% of Castro supporters like Sen. Cory Booker, which is a massive 34 percentage points higher than his overall performance.
More interesting than that are the candidates for whom a large percentage of their support was a fan of Castro. His exit could help those candidates lock down supporters who had previously been eyeing multiple candidates, but a well-timed endorsement of a rival could also present significant problems. Either way, there’s a few candidates who are probably going to be blowing up Castro’s phone right now, given the extent to which their supporters are fans:
- 36% of Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s supporters also were satisfied with Julián Castro as the nominee.
- 35% of those content with Sen. Cory Booker as nominee also would have been fine with Castro.
- 24% of people satisfied with Mayor Pete Buttigieg as nominee would have been happy with Castro as nominee.
Needless to say, Castro may not have soared in the polls, but he was well-liked and there are many candidates who will really want him on their side.
Castro is an instant Veepstakes frontrunner
If the goal of Democrats is to eventually build a ticket where the vice presidential pick can aid the nominee in performing well among portions of the party they underperform in, Castro on paper could not be any better.
First, many candidates have striking differences in how they perform among young people and older voters, or between men and women. Castro has eluded that problem, and does basically the same with older voters as younger and the same with men and women.
Second, Castro has excellent support among liberals, a field that anyone not named Bernie or Elizabeth will need to shore up considerably if they would like to become the president. Castro performs 10 percentage points better among those respondents who described themselves as “very liberal,” the third highest in the field behind the senators from Vermont and Massachusetts.
However, Castro lacks the terrible numbers those candidates see among Democratic voters that described themselves as “slightly liberal” or “neither liberal nor conservative.” Warren does 20 percentage points worse among the latter group and Sanders does 15 points worse, while Castro does a more manageable 9 points worse. If someone’s trying to make a moderate Democratic ticket appeal to liberals, Castro is a natural addition.
Lastly, Castro overperforms among Latinos, a critical Super Tuesday demographic given the large population of Latinos in the Democratic primaries of Texas and California. His endorsement or support will be a coveted one, and that leverage could keep him in the conversation well after he’s exited the presidential hunt.
Given all this, why was Castro unable to resonate with the electorate?
Castro had trouble getting traction, and the debate eligibility rules didn’t help
Castro has trouble getting recognition from the electorate, and while the debates were helpful to his campaign, they never really put him on the map. Only about a third of Democratic respondents had heard of Castro in the spring, but between the end of May and the beginning of October – that is, the period of time when he was still making debates – his familiarity numbers rose about 15 percentage points, maxing out at around 48% but remaining stubbornly flat since.
His absence from the debate stage also coincided with increases in the percentage of Democrats who’d be unsatisfied in the event of his nomination, which over the summer in July and August averaged 17% but in November and December rose to 25%.
Castro may not exactly be quitting while he’s ahead, but nevertheless he’s less leaving the 2020 election than transitioning into a slightly different race.
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