With his recent poll numbers sitting under 1%
, former San Antonio mayor Julián Castro needed a breakout moment in last night's Democratic presidential debate.
And break out he did.
By the time the debate concluded, Castro was trending on Twitter and scoring praise from pundits for a performance that displayed both emotion and policy acumen, especially on immigration. Beyond condemning the Trump administration's border policies, a fired-up Castro called the drowning deaths
of asylum-seeking father Oscar Alberto Martinez and his 23-month-old daughter Valeria an avoidable tragedy "that should piss us all off."
He also demonstrated an ability to punch up, challenging former El Paso congressman Rep. Beto O'Rourke to join him in pledging to repeal the law that makes illegal entry criminal rather civil offense. When O'Rourke fired back that his own immigration reform policy would fix the matter, Castro didn't let up.
"I think you should do your homework on this issue," Castro told the fellow Texan.
In contrast, O'Rourke — who's sixth in the polls
with 3.3% support — delivered a lackluster, largely rehearsed performance, only seeming to reach his comfort zone during an aspirational final statement.
Castro also managed to grab an impressive amount of talking time
on the crowded stage, calling for approval of the Equal Rights Amendment, defending trans rights and highlighting the fact that he was the only candidate to release a comprehensive policing-reform policy.
Predictably, Castro broke into Spanish during his mic time, as did O'Rourke (again, predictably) and New Jersey Sen. Corey Booker (less so). But it was Castro who won some of the night's biggest applause when he did.
"On Jan. 20, 2021, we'll say adios to Donald Trump," he said during his closing remarks. (Castro's campaign is already selling a T-shirt
with the quip emblazoned on its chest.)
Before the debate ended, search interest in Castro had skyrocketed to 2,400%
on Google, and by morning #AdiosTrump was trending on Twitter. Five of six college students on an NBC News panel
also named the former housing secretary as the debate's stand-out candidate.
Of course, Castro can use all the help he can get. His campaign's first-quarter haul of $1.1 million is paltry compared to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' $18 million
or the $36 million President Trump has raised
since announcing his reelection bid earlier this month.
At least after Wednesday's performance Castro appears to have built enough national name recognition to avoid being mixed up with
his twin brother Joaquin Castro on a TV news show again.
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