Hillary Clinton is still being battle-tested in her early days as a presidential candidate, but there’s already buzz about her possible vice presidential pick.
Speculation ratcheted up this week over Housing and Urban Development secretary Julian Castro.
The timing more than a year from the traditional time of picking the veep – the Democratic National Convention – is partly a reflection of her solid frontrunner status, but also a signal that the Latino community is determined to get out front to make its claim.
On MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports,” Wednesday, Castro was asked about the speculation. “Of course I have seen that talk and think anybody would be flattered by that,” he said. “I’m certainly flattered by it, but I’m not holding my breath. I have found that if you do a great job with what is in front of you, with what you’re doing now, that’s the way to have a good future.”
Castro, 40, a former mayor of San Antonio, has been groomed for higher office since running for city council more than 10 years ago.
He was the keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention in 2012, accompanied on the stage by identical twin Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, spotlighting the party’s connection to the Latino community.
Henry Cisneros, a former Democratic mayor of San Antonio and a former HUD secretary himself, as well, has stoked the Castro talk.
"What I am hearing in Washington, including from people in Hillary Clinton's campaign, is that the first person on their lists is Julián Castro,” Cisneros said May 16th on Univision, the Spanish language network. "That they don't have a second option, because he is the superior candidate considering his record, personality, demeanor and Latin heritage. I think there is a very high possibility that Hillary Clinton may choose Julián Castro."
The Clinton campaign, contacted by McClatchy, declined to comment.
In 1984, when Cisneros was mayor, he was a finalist to be Democratic nominee Walter Mondale’s running mate.
“It will be a surprise if Castro isn't on the list of Veep possibilities that Hillary interviews and parades by the press and public,” said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics. “She will need a massive majority of Hispanics similar to the 67 percent and 71 percent that Obama received in 2008 and 2012. There will be extra incentive if Marco Rubio is the GOP nominee, for obvious reasons.”
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is Cuban American and is running for the Republican nomination.
Sabato added, “It's so early in the process I'm embarrassed to be talking about this – almost.”
Henry Munoz, finance chairman of the Democratic National Committee, is from San Antonio and a leading force in promoting Latino politicians.
“It is natural for people to speculate Castro could be vice presidential material,” he said. “I have known him his entire life and I’m very proud of his accomplishments and that of his brother.”
But, said Munoz, “we need to figure out who our nominee is.” And getting on the vice presidential ticket is not so simple since the running mate is hand-picked by the nominee.
The overriding issue for Latinos, said Munoz, is that “our community will be central to this election.”
Antonio Gonzales, president of the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, said of the Latino vote, “We grow 20 percent to 30 percent every four years.”
Pivotal states where Latinos could “provide the margin of victory” for the Democratic ticket include Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Nevada and Colorado.
Republicans are getting attention for their Latino candidates and outreach – in addition to Rubio, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is also Cuban American and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks fluent Spanish.
So Gonzales thinks that Democrats creating a splash around Castro will help Latinos. “We have to get in the mix,” he said. “Getting attention is always good.”