The only Latino Democrat running for president says it would be a mistake to assume that a white man is the best person to beat Donald Trump in 2020.
“The worst thing we can do is to make assumptions or use some cookie-cutter formula about who ought to be the nominee of the party,” Julián Castro told BuzzFeed News Wednesday when asked about voters who say “electability” is the main thing they’re considering when they’re choosing a candidate.
“History tells us, especially in the modern era, that Democratic presidential candidates— who we think is the most electable candidate isn’t necessarily the case,” Castro said.
Democratic primary voters have consistently told pollsters this year that a candidate’s ability to beat Trump is a priority for determining who they’d support. Former vice president Joe Biden has been leading early polls, with voters saying they believe he’d have the best chance of the field to win against Trump. Biden supporters in Philadelphia last week said that they would support one of several women and people of color running for the Democratic nomination in any other year, but that they think a white man is most likely to beat Trump.
“I’m very disturbed by what’s happening in our country right now. I want to make sure my vote counts, as an African American female,” said Angie Johnson, 50, at the Biden rally in Philadelphia Saturday. “I think he has the best chance of winning. I think right now being a white male up against Trump, another white male, he just has the best chance.”
Castro, who has been polling at around 1%, argues that he can win back states Democrats lost by a small margin in 2016 like Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania by picking up “a new coalition of diverse voters” like Barack Obama did in 2008. He also wants voters to look beyond the Midwest, arguing that he is “the best shot to actually offer a second path to victory by getting Arizona, Florida, Texas.”
“So if voters are looking for a candidate that actually has a shot at winning not only those Midwest states but also the Southwest, I’m that candidate,” he said.
Castro has struggled to gain the kind of attention and momentum that other candidates have been attracting in early-voting primary states, including Sens. Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren, and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
“I’d be lying if I said that at points it hasn’t been harder to break into the news than we’d like,” Castro said. “What the reason is for that ranges from 'there are 23 candidates in the race' to 'we live in a political climate that values viral moments' — that hasn’t happened yet.”
Facing the same “electability” question in states like Wisconsin and Michigan, Harris made the case that those conversations are reading the Midwest wrong and excluding black voters.
Castro said that he’s convinced that if he were the nominee, Latino voter turnout would see “a very significant jump,” but that Democrats need to start investing in Latino voter registration and turnout year-round if they want to get more Latinos to the polls.
Castro has qualified for the first Democratic primary debates in June, meeting both the requirement of polling at at least 1% in three different qualified polls and netting a minimum of 65,000 donors.