- - Sunday, May 10, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Top members of Team Hillary are already pushing Julian Castro as her vice presidential nominee, with one source telling me last week that right now, there isn’t even a second choice.

“There’s only one person the top guys are looking at right now, and that’s Julian,” said the source, who is close to top Clinton officials. “They know the Republicans are making a big push this cycle for the Hispanic vote, so that makes Castro an easy pick — and an obvious pick.”

The source said the Clintons still remember that Julian Castro, along with his brother, Joaquin, were early backers of Mrs. Clinton in her 2008 run, and the Clintons are known to pay back their friends, just as they do their foes.

Although Mrs. Clinton is far from clinching the Democratic nomination for president, her path is fairly uncluttered. So far, she faces a 73-year-old senator from Vermont and a one-time governor of Maryland. But the former is a socialist who longs for redistribution of wealth and the latter was once mayor of Baltimore, which imploded in race riots. Neither is seen as a serious threat.

Also in the wings is Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, but the Clinton source said the odds of Mrs. Clinton picking another woman for the ticket are “zero.” The source said that also likely eliminates Wendy Davis, the liberal darling of Texas Democrats.

There are a few others that make the shortlist, according to several other top Democrats. Sen. Mark Warner might be able to secure Virginia, as could former Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine, both men being former governors of the commonwealth.

Jay Nixon, the governor of Missouri, is also mentioned, but the Clinton source laughed that idea off: “You think they’ll really put out bumper stickers that say Clinton/Nixon? Good guy, but no chance.”

And Evan Bayh, the longtime Indiana politician who served two terms in the Senate, also makes the shortlists of many, but he is a creature of Washington and some Clinton insiders say Mrs. Clinton is looking for an outsider, preferably from a state that isn’t a solid Democratic stronghold.

That desire puts a few others in play, like retired Gen. Wesley Clark, who would allay some fears that Mrs. Clinton is weak on defense, and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, a former governor of Iowa, home of the first political caucuses of the 2016 campaign.

A new name is also floating around: Martin Heinrich, the 43-year-old senator from New Mexico. For the past several cycles, the Western state has been in play and, more important, his short time in Washington (just two years), along with his youth (Mrs. Clinton is 67) makes him a conceivable running mate.

Others, like Charlie Crist of Florida or Vice President Joseph R. Biden, are nonstarters. And don’t look for Mrs. Clinton to pick a former U.S. president — her husband. No chance.

That leaves Julian Castro at the top of the list. He, too, brings the bloom of youth: At just 40 years old, he’s also highly accomplished — a two-term mayor of San Antonio (Democrats are making a play for Texas in 2016) and, most recently, President Obama’s pick to be secretary of housing and urban development.

Interestingly, the Castro brothers — twins born to a single mother whose own mother had come across the Mexican border as a 6-year-old orphan — don’t speak Spanish. That means at least three Republicans in the race — Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Marco Rubio and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush — will be the Spanish speakers, but not Mr. Castro.

Mr. Castro brings a slew of desirables. He has declared that “Joaquin and I got into Stanford [University] because of affirmative action,” even though he said he scored just 1,210 on my SATs, “which was lower than the median matriculating student.” Mrs. Clinton is planning to push affirmative action as a key campaign issue.

More, the Castro brothers are a rags-to-riches story — but always with the help of government, another key tenet of Mrs. Clinton’s campaign. And Julian Castro has pushed gay issues throughout his career, an issue dear to Mrs. Clinton.

Julian Castro knows that his moment may soon arrive, but downplays the veep talk.

“At the moment I’m focusing on my role as HUD secretary,” he told Buzzfeed. “At the right time later on down the road, I anticipate getting involved. It’s clear both parties are going to speak to the Latino community in this cycle. What’s also clear is only the Democratic Party has embraced policies that have improved the economic prospects for the Latino community,” he said.

He’s not a shoo-in, of course, and much will depend on how desperate Mrs. Clinton is a year from now. (Remember Sarah Palin?) But Mr. Castro delivers on all the big issues Mrs. Clinton hopes to hit hard in her campaign, and right now, he seems to be the only talk in Team Clinton Town.

Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at josephcurl@gmail.com and on Twitter @josephcurl.

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