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DeWayne Wickham column: Julian Castro positions himself for 2016

8:37 PM, Nov. 29, 2012  |  Comments
San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro speaks during the first day of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Sept. 4, 2012.
San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro speaks during the first day of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Sept. 4, 2012.
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Julian Castro is quietly forging a path that could put him in the White House in 2016.

The second-term Democratic mayor of San Antonio made his debut in the national spotlight this year when he became the first Hispanic to give the keynote address at a major political party's national convention. Since then, a confluence of good moves and good timing is positioning Castro to be as big a political surprise in 2016 as Obama was in 2008.

One of Castro's recent good moves came just eight days after Obama won re-election by soundly defeating Republican Mitt Romney. The 37-year-old mayor, who along with his identical twin brother, Joaquin, was raised by a single mother, signed a deal to write his autobiography. In 1995, Obama's self-authored memoir, "Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance," allowed him to largely define himself well before his first Senate campaign in 2004.

Castro's next good move came a couple days before Thanksgiving, when he led a delegation of Texas corporate executives to Great Britain. The San Antonio Express-News billed the trip as a "trade mission focused on energy and information technology." For Castro, a Mexican-American, it was also an astute formal entry onto the world stage.

In his keynote address at the London School of Economics and Political Science - an impressive resume stuffer for a would-be presidential candidate - Castro showed himself to be a far better schmoozer of America's closest ally than Romney. The mayor opened his speech by thanking "Londoners for doing a great job this past summer with the Olympics. It was fantastic to watch a city pull off the Olympics the way that London did."

His remark was a sharp reminder of how impolitic Romney had been back in the summer when he called London's preparation for the Olympics "disconcerting" during his visit to the British capital on the eve of the 30th Olympiad.

Castro pulled off another good move by landing meetings with British Foreign Secretary William Hague and George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer (who is the equivalent of this nation's treasury secretary), during his two-day visit. That's a pretty impressive itinerary for the mayor of America's seventh largest city. "You have done some great things. You are on our radar," Osborne told the young mayor, according to the Express-News.

That wasn't the first radar to detect Castro's political ascent. During a visit to San Antonio two years ago, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told Castro he "was on the radar in Washington," The New York Times reported in a flattering profile in 2010.

So far, the early betting among pundits is that the lineup of Democratic and Republican presidential wannabes will be drawn largely from the fading political culture that produced the 43 men who preceded the election of Obama, this nation's first black president.

With the exception of the mention of Democrat Hillary Clinton (who has said she won't run) and Republican conservative Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a Cuban-American, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, an Indian-American, that list is made up of white men who lack the ability to win the backing of the multiracial, multiethnic, female-anchored coalition that twice lifted Obama into the White House.

This is where the issue of timing comes in. With Castro at the head of their ticket in 2016, Democrats might have the best chance of holding together that coalition. They also could dramatically alter the nation's political map by winning Texas, a state where blacks and Hispanics already make up a majority of the population.

That kind of political sea change would almost certainly guarantee Democrats continued control of the White House after Obama leaves the Oval Office.

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