A week after ending his presidential campaign, Julián Castro stood in front of a crowd at Elizabeth Warren’s Las Vegas campaign headquarters in front of signs that said “We ❤️ Julián,” delivering an energetic endorsement of the senator.
“I can’t tell you how many conversations I had along the way where I’d be talking to a voter, and I thought I had them going, I thought I’d get their support. They’re nodding … and then we’d get to the end of the conversation and I’d say, ‘Well, can I get your support?’, and they’d say ‘Well, you know, I love you but I’m going to vote for Sen. Warren’,” he joked Friday night.
So now, instead of carrying on his own fading campaign, Castro is happily taking his role as a prominent voice for Elizabeth Warren’s.
“It’s easy to be here for Sen. Warren because our vision for America matches up very well,” he told BuzzFeed News in an interview before Friday’s event.
Castro, like he said during his official endorsement rally with Warren in New York on Tuesday, said he thinks Warren “can unify the Democratic party” because she’s less divisive in some polls than former vice president Joe Biden or Sen. Bernie Sanders.
“What we see consistently in the data is that 25% of the Democratic primary voters would be unhappy if Sen. Sanders is the nominee, and 25% of Democratic voters would be unhappy if Vice President Biden is the nominee,” Castro said. “Less people have a problem, more people embrace, Sen. Warren being the Democratic nominee.”
But Castro avoided criticizing Biden and Pete Buttigieg, the former South Bend, Indiana, mayor, both of whom both Warren and Castro have clashed with on the debate stage, staying staunchly on-message.
“Sen. Warren can fix our broken immigration system,” he said multiple times during the interview and again during the event.
Asked about Biden telling an immigration activist who confronted him in South Carolina recently that the activist “should vote for Trump,” Castro said, “I applaud Sen. Warren for embracing the idea that we can fix our broken immigration system and to do that she’s done that in a respectful straightforward way.”
“I wish all of the candidates were there as well, but unfortunately that’s not the case,” he added.
Castro had been more willing to spar with other candidates when he was a candidate himself, especially on immigration issues. During the first Democratic debate, Castro stood out by pushing for his plan to decriminalize crossing the US border and for assertively challenging candidates on the stage who did not share his position.
Before dropping out of the race, Castro was vocal about the DNC’s criteria for the debates, which he said put candidates of color at a disadvantage.
On Friday he said he thinks the DNC needs to “take a look at the lessons learned from this 2020 campaign cycle going forward.”
“There certainly is value to having more diversity on the stage,” he said. “At the same time, in the last debate, Sen. Warren made a powerful case for getting big money out of politics, even pointing out issues with ways that some of the other candidates have raised money in this campaign.”
A few younger undecided voters at the event said they thought Castro throwing his support behind Warren is important — but they’re also impressed with Sanders and his highest-profile Latina surrogate, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
“I think they’re both equally as good,” said Stephanie Ponce, 22, a student at Nevada State, who added that she’s also considering Andrew Yang.
Ponce and her friend Anthony Cano, 21, said they came to the Warren campaign event specifically because they wanted to see a Latino leader speak.
“There’s not a lot of diversity in the people running for president, so that’s something that really meant a lot to me,” said Cano. “Sometimes we don't have any representation, and I think representation means a lot. So that’s what really brought me to come here.”