At first, it seemed strange that, on one of the most important nights for Democrats, they would open with a a guy with a sprawling white smile who no one had heard of before. But hey, Dems must have thought, it worked in 2004 -- why not play this hand again?
So they did, trotting out Julian Castro, San Antonio's mayor, to address the Democratic National Convention in a speech that didn't make anyone forget Barack Obama, but did make you realize he really, really, pretty-pretty-please, wants to be compared to Barack Obama.
It's not that the similarities between them aren't striking, because they are. They're both young and minorities -- once-financially strapped youths raised by single mothers who later went on to graduate Harvard Law School and marry beautiful women, later spawning some truly adorable children.
They're both walking manifestations of what Democrats are trying to prove in this campaign: that without help and guidance, their journeys would never have been possible. Castro paid for his schooling at Stanford and Harvard with scholarships and loans -- investments that fueled his entire life. (Last week, Republicans offered a very different narrative, one of austere, I-did-it-all-on-my-own individualism, even though, puzzling enough, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan most surely didn't do it on their own.)
Castro's speech did get us thinking though, and here are the three most important things we learned about Castro last night:
3. He's Just Like Barack Obama Castro, presumably, has watched a lot of Obama's speeches, emulating every gesture, hitting that soaring baritone, and doing that thing that Barack does when he wants to show he's resonant with empathy, and begins narrating exclusively in italics in a near-whisper. "My family's story isn't special," Castro said. "What's special (mad italics) is the America that makes our story possible." 2. He's nothing Like Barack Obama Castro did everything he could to steal some of that charisma, but, ultimately, he's just not Barack Obama. Dude doesn't have the speech writers, or can't write himself. The story was there, the appearance was there, the oratory capabilities, but the writing -- that sweeping rhetoric Obama once championed but, today, frequently forgets -- wasn't. Castro can boom, sure, but his rhythm was off. And he hasn't found a way to couple those ideas with visceral phrases or compelling phrase-making.
"The dream of raising a family in a place where hard work is rewarded is not unique to Americans," Castro said. "The dream is universal, but America makes it possible and our investment in opportunity makes it a reality."
What's that, Julian? Sorry we stopped listening and were too busy YouTube-ing Clint Eastwood at last week's RNC again -- now there's a speech that captivates.
1. Julian Castro's daughter is substantially more entertaining to watch than her father
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Toward the end of Castro's speech, he began talking about his daughter, Carina Victoria, and the camera turned to the 3-year-old. Her image was splashed across the big screen. Immediately, the girl lost all interest in her father and began primping and flipping her hair. Lesson learned: a young fashionista never gets shown up.