Julián Castro Needs a Defining Moment. Has It Already Passed?

When he left Washington at the end of the Obama administration, Mr. Castro returned to Texas but resisted entreaties to run for statewide office. He finished writing a book, did some teaching and spent time with his family, but some Texas Democrats believe he missed an opportunity to advance his career and gain the kind of political profile that could have fortified his presidential run.

Because Mr. Castro never ran for statewide office, he has not built up a big email list of supporters, and he still has not met the 65,000-donor threshold to qualify for the first Democratic primary debates. In the first three months of the year, he raised only $1.1 million (though his campaign said it had raised over half a million more by mid-April).

[Here’s a look at the early fund-raising numbers for the whole 2020 field.]

“I don’t believe that from the presidential perspective, it was a mistake,” Gilberto Hinojosa, the chairman of the Texas Democratic Party, said about Mr. Castro’s decision not to run statewide. “But I do believe that, like Beto, had he run for one of those offices, that he would have done really well even if he wouldn’t have won.”

Mr. Castro is more circumspect, betting that voters will come to appreciate his background and executive experience, eventually.

“People are going to have their moments,” he said, without naming names but perhaps alluding to Pete Buttigieg, another 2020 candidate and the mayor of South Bend, Ind., whose popularity has grown substantially in the past month. “I would rather have my moment closer to the actual election than right now.”

He ticked off former Republican candidates who surged early, then flamed out, naming Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann.

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