Sept. 6 (Bloomberg) -- San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro predicted President Barack Obama will win at least 70 percent of the Hispanic vote, describing Republican challenger Mitt Romney as “the most conservative candidate that the Latino community has ever seen.” Castro, the convention’s keynote speaker on Sept. 4, was interviewed today at a Bloomberg/Washington Post breakfast in Charlotte, North Carolina.
(This is not a legal transcript. Bloomberg LP cannot guarantee its accuracy.)
AL HUNT, BLOOMBERG NEWS: Guys, why don’t we get going? Because I know the mayor has a tight schedule. First of all, we are delighted that you are here.
JULIAN CASTRO: Thank you for having me.
HUNT: You’ve had quite an introduction this week, not only with the speech the other night, but I saw several interviews with you and your brother, and I can -- I can see why you can get away with him showing up or vice versa. But it’s really been a fascinating week.
Let me start off by asking you the parochial question about the Latino vote. And the Republicans basically argue that, look, Romney will do a little bit better than McCain did last time and turnout will be down because of a lack of enthusiasm for a president who never bothered to submit a comprehensive immigration bill after talking about it last time. Assess that case.
CASTRO: Well -- well, first of all, thank you all very much for having me. I apologize I’m a little bit late. We were running from the last thing. Thank you for the question.
I’m convinced that, at the end of the day, let’s start with the results on Nov. 6, as I -- as I believe they’re going to be. I believe that, at the end of the day, that the president’s percentage of the Latino vote is going to be closer to Clinton’s 1996 percentage, which was 73 percent, and I say that for a couple of reasons, most importantly because of policy.
This is the -- vis-a-vis the Latino community, Mitt Romney is the most conservative candidate that the Latino community has seen. And his -- a Romney presidency would be the most counter-productive for the Latino community. So let me give you a couple of examples of why I say that.
On immigration reform, of course, the president is the only one in D.C. that’s actually tried to do anything to get comprehensive immigration reform in the last few years. He made the administrative decision to allow the DREAMers to come out of the shadows and at least get into school and get work. He’s prioritized deportation so that we’re going after -- we’re using our resources where it makes the most sense to go after folks who have a serious criminal record.
On the other hand, Mitt Romney has said that he would veto a DREAM Act. He’s -- he’s hanging out with Kris Kobach and Jan Brewer and Pete Wilson.
On education, the president invested in Pell Grants, financial aid, so that 150,000 Latinos are able to take advantage -- more Latinos are able to take advantage of that and afford college. We’ve seen a surge in Hispanic college enrollment. I’m sure you all have reported on it. That -- that is the American dream coming true for that community. Mitt Romney, you know, I believe would cut education funding.
And then, third, on health care, 9 million more Latinos are going to be able to have good, affordable health care because of the president’s affordable health care act. For too many Latinos, the emergency room is their primary care physician. You have a community that has a tremendous rate of diabetes, for instance, and everything that goes with that, obesity, hypertension, stroke, and so getting good health care is a huge opportunity for the Latino community.
The challenge that Mitt Romney has is not the personalities. A lot of folks have made a big deal out of me or Senator Rubio or Governor Martinez or Sandoval speaking at these conventions. Mitt Romney’s headwind is not -- is not the personalities. It’s the policies.
And so I believe that, at the end of the day, the reason you’re seeing these polls show President Obama so far ahead, and by Election Day he’s going to get up into at least 70 percent range, is the policies that Mitt Romney has embraced.
QUESTION: How much do you -- the Republicans will say Obama -- the president will be hurt because he broke his promise in that he never pushed comprehensive immigration reform, didn’t have a bill. You know, he’s done some things that he can do within his power, but never tried to push a bill through Congress, and that that broken promise will be held against him in the Latino community.
CASTRO: I don’t believe that’ll be the case. And I believe that the polls reflect that that’s not the case. You remember -- I mean, I think as all of us who, you know, have dealt with politics understand that -- that it’s always a choice between two candidates, and this president has taken affirmative steps in the direction of comprehensive immigration reform, whereas Mitt Romney and the Republican Party don’t just not like comprehensive immigration reform, their tone has been so antagonistic toward immigrants, over-the-top antagonistic, that when you have to choose between a president who is doing his best to make something happen and took the responsibility himself of making those administrative changes, versus a candidate who is cozying up to the worst elements of the Republican Party on this issue, the choice is very clear. There’s not even a choice.
QUESTION: But with --
HUNT: Go ahead (OFF-MIKE)
QUESTION: With the Latino vote, I mean, nobody doubts that there’s strong support of the president. The question is turnout. What - what are the things that you worry about in terms of turning out the Latinos in the numbers that the president is going to need them?
CASTRO: Well, there’s been a lot of talk about whether there’s an enthusiasm gap this year, for instance. And, of course, we’ll see on November 6th, but at least when I look at the presidential elections, the -- the voting on presidential elections, from the most -- let’s take the last 30 years. The highest level turnout to the lowest level turnout, generally it’s not going to -- it’s going to be within a range, you know? It’s not going to be that far off.
The Latino community over the last several cycles has been increasing, so the overall turnout I expect to increase. I do believe that by the time we get to November 6th that folks will be enthusiastic about voting, that they will vote, that more Latinos will vote in this election.
You know, of course, it’s important for the president to get out to Florida, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, to help build up the Latino community, to excite the community and tell the story of what he has done that has benefited the Latino community. So, yeah, I mean, he is going to have to get out there and make the case, but I believe that once he does make the case, that folks will turn out.
HUNT: Dan Balz, do you have a question?
QUESTION: Mr. Mayor, looking at it more broadly (OFF-MIKE) speeches here have talked a lot about where we are heading on the economy (OFF-MIKE) there’s been no actual talk of the condition the country is in. None of the speakers have really addressed, in a sense, the terrible state of the economy. It’s almost accepted as a given and (OFF-MIKE) how serious it is (OFF-MIKE) and I wonder why there hasn’t been more emphasis coming from Democrats (OFF-MIKE) why there hasn’t been a more explicit acknowledgment of the fact (OFF-MIKE) condition of so many people in poverty, you know, the poverty rate (OFF-MIKE).
CASTRO: Well, you know, you all have probably seen more of the speeches than I have at this point, and so I don’t profess to know about all of the speeches, but I do believe that several of the speeches, including mine, have spoken about -- it has talked about the condition that we’re in now in comparison to where we were when President Obama took office.
What you see is clearly a comparative analysis of where the country was in January of 2009 and the months leading up to that and where we are now. And, you know, we have talked about the progress that has been made.
If your question is, why are we focusing on the progress instead of the -- you know, what might be considered the negative part of that, well, of course. I mean, you know, the message is going to be about that we’re making forward progress. And I believe that that case is clearly there.
QUESTION: And I guess part of the question is, should there have been or should President Obama in his speech tonight acknowledge in some way the stakes or things that he tried to do that have not worked? In other words, it’s fine to say, yes, it was really terrible when I came in, and everybody, you know, would stipulate to that. But it’s also true that the kinds of things that he said he was putting in place he said would produce results much faster than they have.
And some acknowledgment of what he’s learned from that, why you all think the next four years can be better -- in other words, what are the lessons learned, as opposed to simply saying we’ve done all the right things, it’s just taking a little time?
CASTRO: Well, and I imagine, you know, of course, I haven’t seen - nobody’s seen the president’s remarks yet, but -- but I do believe that he’ll speak to -- he’ll be frank with the American people about where we are and what we need to do. You know, the president has a good case to make for why we’re making progress, but he has also said that this is not -- you know, this is not where we need to end up, that nobody is -- is satisfied with where we are now. We need to keep making progress.
I mean, however you say it --
QUESTION: Let me -- let me just ask one last follow-up. Yes, he says -- and everybody has said we’re not where we would want to be now, but there is no suggestion that we are not where we ought to be because some of the things we tried (OFF-MIKE) in other words, is there -- is it -- is it the sense of all of you that everything that’s been done has been successful?
CASTRO: No, I think it’s a sense that -- that there have been the right investments that have been made and that progress has not been as quick as folks would like it to be. Of course, there were -- you know, it wasn’t just the president. It’s the Congress, also. You know, so I think from what has been done or what has been blocked in Congress, the end result of that is that we haven’t made as much progress as folks would like, but there has been progress.
And, you know, I believe that the president will be frank with the American people about what we need to do, which is what they’re wondering about most importantly, the future, what we need to do to ensure that there’s even more progress in the future.
But part of that is that it takes two to tango, as you know, Dan. It’s not just the president or one party. You know, it’s the entire D.C., you know, system.
QUESTION: Mr. Mayor, speaking of the future, I wondered when you thought there would be the first Latino president. In 2004, the guy who’s president now made a keynote speech that got a lot of attention and catapulted his career. And at the time, many said that they would never see an African-American president.
QUESTION: And there it was, four years later. And I wonder, you know, in this moment now, as you’ve given your keynote speech, what are you -- how does that feel for you? And when do you think the country would be ready to elect a Latino president?
CASTRO: Well, I think the country is ready now. I agree with Jorge Ramos, who has said that the first Latino president has been born. I don’t think that I’m that person, but I do think that that person has been born.
And just like I believe that -- that the country is ready for a female president, too. And President Obama has broken barriers that will never be put back together. I think those barriers are broken for folks in America now. And so I don’t know, of course, when that’ll happen, but as you say, I mean, if we were watching this speech in 2004, nobody thought that back then that there would be an African-American president. I think because of his success, that he’s opened up people’s minds in an important way to others. I mean, he really has created a pathway for others.
QUESTION: And is --
QUESTION: Why do you say -- if I could just ask, why do you say that person, not you?
CASTRO: Because that’s not what I’m aiming for. You know, I haven’t woken up a single day of my life and thought that - that I was going to be president. I also live in Texas. Texas has 29 statewide offices, and the count between Republicans and Democrats is 29-0.
QUESTION: I’ve spent a lot of time in Texas.
CASTRO: Yeah, well, then you know it well. It’s a very Republican state. And --
QUESTION: But will it always be?
CASTRO: It won’t always be. Yeah, it won’t always be.
QUESTION: When do you think it’s going to change?
CASTRO: I think it’s going to change in between six to eight years, and I’ll tell you three reasons -- three quick reasons why. The growth of the Hispanic community, which has been much written about.
A second factor that has been underreported, but is very important. There was a Public Policy Polling poll about 10 days ago on Virginia. And in the crosstabs of that poll, they did something that was really interesting that usually you don’t see. They didn’t just report on the breakdown of the results by race or age or other -- and geographic residence. They reported in the crosstabs on how long people had lived there, the respondents in Virginia.
So overall, President Obama was ahead of Romney 50-45 in the poll. That was the top-line number. For people who had lived in Virginia 20 years or longer, he was -- Romney was ahead 51-45. For folks who had lived in Virginia 10 years or less, the president was ahead 67-29.
So -- and this is the irony of Texas. Texas has had an economic boom these last few years compared to other states. People have been moving in from California, Nevada, Florida, any number of other places that are more moderate than Texas, and it’s become a more urbanized state.
So you have the urbanization. You have an infusion of folks into Harris County, Dallas County, Travis County, Bexar County, and that’s going to accelerate, just like it has here in North Carolina, as well, this movement toward a purple and then a blue state.
And the third part is also important, is what’s happened to the Republican Party in Texas. I mean, these guys have run the table so long for the last 20 years that now they’re about to elect in Ted Cruz someone who is way far out there on the right. I mean, all you’ve got to do is YouTube him and see how far out he is to the right.
And they’re having fights -- this is an election cycle where Ted Cruz ran an ad against David Dewhurst that everybody considers a very conservative guy -- and effective -- pummeling him for being a, quote, unquote, “moderate.” That’s the third factor.
Just like I grew up in a Texas where folks would say, “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party; the Democratic Party left me,” folks in the business community today are going through a Texas where people are saying the Republican Party is leaving me. I don’t see a place in the Republican Party anymore, when we’re thinking about smart business decisions, thinking about investing for the future.
The business community wants predictability. They want rationality, and they want the right investments in infrastructure, in knowledge, and so forth. And it’s not enough to just say we’re going to have less regulation, you know, we’re going to keep your taxes low. That’s only part of the equation. That’s the big mistake that those folks are making.
And then adding into it the social issues that the business Republicans are never -- that’s not their deal. And more and more of them, I believe, are going to peel off and to be independents and consider voting for pro-business Democrats in the future.
QUESTION: Mr. Mayor, just in terms of outreach to the Latino community, we see both parties do things very similarly. They talk in Spanish in some TV ads. They parade out speakers who are of the Latino community. And they talk about immigration.
And so right now, we heard the Republicans take that menu of outreach items, and they used it at their convention. We’ve seen a similar package here at the Democratic convention. Is that really it? I mean, is that really how you reach out to the Latino community? Are either party missing things that they should be doing that are more nuanced or textured?
CASTRO: Well, no. I guess I would -- I would challenge the premise of that a little bit, is -- and in my speech, I didn’t just -- I didn’t just speak to that. I think that the most important issues for the Latino community are the most important issues for the nation. And they see that the Democrats and the Republicans have a different approach on those issues.
So everything from, for instance, tax policy, I think even if we disagree on the nuances of the tax policy, I think we would agree that, as the two parties see it, generally the Republican plan benefits a certain income group more just generally than the Democratic plan. Well, if you think about who makes more than $250,000 in this nation, the - first of all, the vast majority of Americans don’t fall under that category, but the vast, vast, vast, vast majority of Latinos don’t fall into that category. And so when they hear that, I mean, there’s a reaction there. That’s not their experience. They’re aspirational. They want to get there.
On education, I think that’s -- that is the issue that pulls most at the heartstrings of any community, but particularly the Latino community, because for so many years, many Latinos have been undereducated. And so I guess what I’m saying is that I would expand that notion. It’s not just the immigration and the American dream story. It’s the issue of education. It’s the issue of tax policy. It’s the issue of health care, where they can see that -- I mean, they don’t have health care. I mean, that’s the reality for a lot of -- much -- many more Latinos than the general population. And if they see that, OK, well, I’m going to have health care under this Affordable Care Act, that makes a big difference.
My grandmother that I spoke -- that I spoke about, she lived her life -- you know, when I growing up, I didn’t know a time when she didn’t have diabetes. And you could replicate that story over and over and over again in the Hispanic community. So the idea that they’re going to have health care now, that they’re not going to remain poor, because they just -- they have to pay for that, that is a huge underreported aspect of that entire act.
QUESTION: Mr. Mayor, can I ask you -- you said you think President Obama will win at least 70 percent of the Latino vote. George Bush won 41 -- according to exit polls, 40 percent, 41 percent in 2004. Republican strategists will say probably we can’t -- this can’t become a 70-30 constituency for us. Do you not believe that there is a path for Republicans to make inroads with the Latino community? Do you believe this is a 70-30 community from now until time immemorial?
CASTRO: No, not necessarily. I take the example of George Bush as an example of -- I think it says two good things. It says something good about the Republican Party and a candidate that was able to reach out. It also says something good about the Latino community, because they’re considering the candidates.
So I do think it’s possible for folks -- usually, you know, if you look at who’s generally had some success, I would think it’s probably folks who have been used to dealing with the Latino community and their experience coming up, and that was George Bush’s strong suit, I think, dealing in Texas, understanding those issues. That helped. I can imagine, you know, if you’re from California or Florida or Texas or Arizona, New Mexico, that you might -- a border state, that you might have more grounding in some of the issues, and that might help, and if they take a more moderate stance.
George Bush also benefited from using -- I don’t know if it was intentional or not -- but being a foil to Pete Wilson during the ’90s, when you had Wilson going off the rails in California, and Bush being more moderate, and specifically saying, we’re not going to do that in Texas, it sort of Clinton’s Sister Souljah moment that people talk about. Does another Republican get that kind of moment? I don’t know. I don’t know.
QUESTION: Mr. Mayor, could a candidate such as Jeb Bush reclaim a sizable share of that Republican vote -- the Latino vote in 2016?
CASTRO: You know, certainly he has more of a claim than anybody else. But I think you all would agree with me that -- that with regard to Bush, the country is in a different place than we were in the year 2000.
QUESTION: How so?
CASTRO: There was a Bush presidency.
QUESTION: I mean, if you’d elaborate -- I mean, he’s carrying too much baggage even then in 2016?
CASTRO: I just -- yeah, think we’re in a different place. I think even with regard to the Hispanic community, not necessarily because of what anything that President Bush did, but because of all of the baggage that has been created by the Kris Kobachs and the Jan Brewers of the world, in 2016, if they keep it up, you know, you’re not -- when you elect a president, you’re not just empowering an individual. You’re empowering a set of ideas that the party also is involved in, and especially if -- if at that time they do still have control over the House, folks will, I think, give that consideration, too.
QUESTION: Speaking of those figures, were you surprised that the Republicans at their convention had Pete Wilson announce the California delegation votes? Or did people just not notice that?
CASTRO: Yeah, I didn’t even notice it. You can imagine, I wasn’t watching that gavel to gavel.
QUESTION: Right, right.
CASTRO: Yeah, but it does surprise me. Because look at -- I saw this really interesting statistic a few -- a few weeks ago that -- in California, that California Latinos were 10 percent less likely than the mainstream to vote. In Texas, they’re 25 percent less likely. So that piece of information -- and then stats on voter registration for Hispanics, for Latinos, between 2008 and 2011, in Texas, it had fallen by 4 percent. In Arizona, it rose by 49 percent.
You take what happened, the experience that California had under Wilson with 187 and 209 and 227, you know, if there was a silver lining in that, is that people woke up. And the Hispanic community, both on how they voted, clearly shifted Democrat -- more Democratic -- and I bet that you saw a spike in voter registration and participation.
In Arizona, there’s -- they’re going to see that in this election, I believe. We haven’t had that in Texas, because we haven’t seen the worst of that type of policy. But to the question of am I surprised, yeah, I’m surprised, because, you know, this election can come down to states where Latinos make a big difference, like Nevada and Colorado, New Mexico, and so forth, Florida.
QUESTION: Mr. Mayor, to that point, when both campaigns are trying to get out the Latino vote, is there -- are the methods the same? Is there one method that’s better than another? Is it peer to peer? Is it Spanish-language media? What’s the best way to generate that turnout?
HUNT: You are allowed to eat while you answer.
CASTRO: It’s OK. It’s all right.
I mean, I would say, first, I mean, you know, people aren’t that different, right? I mean, it’s all the regular things that folks do, knocking on doors, establishing -- you know, not just approaching people at the last minute to vote for a candidate, but engaging in a conversation with folks about what’s important in their lives and these voter mobilization programs, whether they’re on the left or the right, that try and engage them in their own community, everything from potholes that they want fixed to local policy issues to, hey, now be a citizen, you know, fully participate.
So with the Latino community, though, we’re very family-based, you know, also people of faith, people that go to church. So the churches that have -- you know, efforts that are centered around faith and around family are, I believe, particularly impactful, that engage people in their local community, because that’s their hands-on experience.
But let me point out something that has been underreported, I think, that is going to be very significant in the days to come, and -- you know, this -- I know that Univision has a joint venture with -- is it the Washington Post and others or somebody -- National Journal, ABC --
CASTRO: All right. Yeah, maybe you guys have one, too. I don’t know. Up to now, corporate America and the campaigns, when they think about reaching out to Latinos, the first thing that they’ve thought about -- and I think the Obama campaign is much more savvy about this now -- at least from what I can tell -- but generally what they’ve done is they’ve thought, well, you got to advertise in Spanish.
Well, actually, if we were to do an analysis of the voting community in the United States among Latinos, it’s English-dominant. The problem for them has been that for campaigns generally -- I’m not speaking about anybody individually -- has been that they think, I think campaigns in the past, let’s say, have thought, wow, I’m not going to put on English-language radio or TV, you know, a message that is segmented to a certain market and risk alienating the mainstream market, right?
The new development is exactly that kind of joint venture that those guys are doing. And it’s not just them -- I think Fox and others are doing it -- that is now going to target what I would -- what I’d call the George Lopez segment of the Latino community. He’s the only one that I’ve seen exploit it really well, of course, in a different environment, this English-dominant and younger Latino, that now they will have these media outlets, you know, on TV where they can advertise and not be as afraid of alienating another segment.
Up to now, those types of stations have been literally on the third tier of cable networks or satellite networks. Now they’re -- I think, in the coming years, they’ll be more primetime -- prime spot on the dial. That is an underappreciated, underreported, under-analyzed asset to these parties, and what they make of it, how they make use of it, is still to be seen, but I think it’s going to be very significant in the years to come.
QUESTION: Mr. Mayor, to take it a step further than that, help the English-language media better understand what we’re missing in coverage of the Latino community. You mentioned Jorge Ramos and in your city and other cities across the country, he gets better ratings than anyone else. So if Hispanics want to watch the news in English, if they want to read it in English, is there something that’s not being covered, perhaps, that isn’t drawing that audience in?
CASTRO: Well, I mean, I think it’s -- you know, I still subscribe to the idea that there’s a lot more commonality, but, you know, I do think that -- that the cultural aspect, how you grow up affects the -- you know, the flavor of the programs that you like and what you’re attuned to in terms of how you digest the news. I don’t think I have a great description of it or nuance of it off the top of my head, but I do believe, of course, there’s a difference. There’s a reason that people are watching George Lopez. It relates to them.
But, you know -- I mean, if you look at television news around the country and you look for diversity, you don’t find it very much in significant ways. It does count who delivers it. The Latino community is watching, also, those -- I mean, I watched -- you know, 90 percent of what I watch is English-language news, but I don’t -- to be frank, I don’t see that many Latinos. It’s -- the investment has not been made there.
That -- you know, that’s not a -- I don’t think we should approach it by complaining, you know? I think we should approach it by saying, OK, well, how are we going to make sure that it improves?
But these new networks, these joint ventures, they offer an existing opportunity to sort of hit both of those angles. It’s in English. Of course you’re going to have Hispanic talent that is part of those networks. Also, I imagine that that’s going to blossom more Hispanic talent to go into, you know, flip over and go into other types of networks in the future. It’s sort of a good proving ground. Yeah.
HUNT: Let me ask you this, Mr. Mayor. You noted a moment ago how important family and faith is to the Hispanic community. How much will the president’s support for gay marriage hurt him with Latino voters?
CASTRO: It’s a great question. I -- you know, I haven’t seen any polling on it yet, but I do think that it was very encouraging that in the African-American community we’ve seen the polls move significantly, I think, in terms of support for the idea of gay marriage after the president’s announcement. And I have a hunch that you’re probably going to see, to some extent, movement in the Latino community in that direction, also, not just because of the president, but, I mean, literally, you all have seen the polls more than I have on this. The nation has shifted its ideas around this.
And this is why -- and so I don’t -- I guess to answer your question, I don’t believe that -- I don’t believe that he’s going to be hurt by that position in the 2012 election. I’ve seen the ads that I’m sure you guys have seen running on the TV here in North Carolina with the wife and the husband talking about, that’s not the change that I voted for. I don’t think that it’s going to hurt him overall with the Latino community, just like -- you know, there are many Latinos who are voting Democratic who may be pro-life. They’re still voting as Democrats.
You know, people are complicated. They hold one view, but they also hold an umbrella view about -- oh.
Well, I can say this is a unique experience. I’ve never had my meal changed in -- yeah.
Oh, but let -- oh, go ahead.
CASTRO: No, I was just going to say, very quickly, you know, as I see it, we live in this society where -- especially after President Obama’s election -- where it’s supposed to be post-racial, and so the bar now is set kind of at this zero, where everybody’s supposed to be -- supposedly and supposed to be treated equally.
And so what you’re seeing is that that helps certain issues. Less and less Americans can hold in their minds now the idea that, if that’s the standard, that people who are gay or lesbian shouldn’t be able to get married, because they’re supposed to come up now to that standard.
At the same time, let’s take a flip issue, affirmative action. Less and less people may be able to hold in their minds the idea that, well, these preferences should be given to people because of -- you know, they’re Latino or African-American. And so you may see that support level come down.
But on gay marriage, you’re going to see it at least rise. People can’t hold it less -- they can’t hold it in the same way in their minds the way they used to, that they shouldn’t be able to be married.
QUESTION: I wonder if you could just tell us the story of getting that speech put together (OFF-MIKE) contacted by the campaign?
CASTRO: I wrote it myself. I wrote it all. I did it all.
I’m just kidding.
QUESTION: I think (inaudible) as they say, Mr. Mayor.
QUESTION: When did the line, “Gee, why didn’t I think of that?”, come to you? But tell us a little bit about (OFF-MIKE) how that all unfolded.
CASTRO: Yeah. Yeah. Well, I got -- I got a call from Jim Messina, the campaign manager, I guess -- it was announced on July 31st, so it must have been right the week before that, July 20-something, and said, you know, would you -- I called on behalf of the president to ask if you would deliver the keynote address. And, of course, I said yes right away, very honored to do that.
As soon as I did that, you have two emotions, this excitement that, hey, I have this opportunity, and also kind of, oh, man, I have this opportunity.
This nervousness, sort of this guttural anxiety starts to build toward that speech. And then the process of actually putting it together was it -- I came up with ideas, and my brother and I worked on some text, and then sent that over to the speechwriters. And then they sent back a whole speech.
I took about 35 percent to 40 percent of that and -- and then wrote a version of the rest of it. And then they came back with revisions. So by the end of it, it was a collaborative effort, you know, like any significant speech. I don’t remember who came up with the “gee” -- that line. I think it was the -- going back and forth on how we would say things.
Of course, there were some turns of phrase that I wanted to use that didn’t get in there, and some stuff they wanted me to use that didn’t get in there, but at the end of the day, of course, the speaker is the one that says, OK, well, I’m comfortable with this. So that’s how we put --
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) joint sense, I mean, both from your own perspective and their own perspective, what was it that they wanted that speech to accomplish?
CASTRO: Well, I think they wanted it to resonate with the American people on the American dream story, on -- and mostly on the idea -- and which was the refrain of the speech -- that if we invest in these opportunities that we -- that we have in front of us today, that, you know, we’re going to create prosperity tomorrow for the middle class. So that’s -- that is what -- what they wanted the speech to convey, and I wanted -- that’s, you know, what I wanted the speech to convey, as well. So in that sense, there was -- there was only agreement about what the speech should say.
QUESTION: But it was also Mitt doesn’t get it, which, you know, there were immediate comparisons with the president’s 2004 convention speech, but that was more of a speech of “here’s our shared values,” and it does seem that your speech was more “here’s the difference between our values.”
CASTRO: Yeah. Yeah. You know, the networks have cut these things down to one hour of primetime. And so, of course, you see it on both -- in both conventions, the umbrella message of the campaigns is going to take up now -- because you only have an hour -- it’s going to take up some part of everybody’s speech. That’s just the reality, so that the -- the landscape in terms of speech-making for these conventions has changed.
So what you saw, I think, was that although President Obama was a much better speaker than I was a couple nights ago, I think what you saw in my speech versus President Obama’s speech was that the beginning and the end were sort of these aspirational story-telling narrative parts of the speech, right, and summoned the values that we all share, the future we all want, and so forth. The middle of the speech was -- was more the argument behind it.
QUESTION: What’s it been like since that speech? I saw you -- I saw you in the box, the VIP box next to Mrs. Obama last night, watching that, wondered what you -- what kind of conversations you’d have, what other kind of feedback you’ve gotten from different places, the president (inaudible) since the speech.
CASTRO: No, I -- yeah, I’ve gotten great feedback from folks, except from Ryan. Just kidding.
CASTRO: Oh, you’re not? OK.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) exactly the same.
CASTRO: My apologies, except from Ryan Lizza. I’ve gotten good feedback.
QUESTION: I liked it, just for the record.
CASTRO: Thank you.
QUESTION: That’s so Lizza.
CASTRO: Good. Then I like the Washington Post. You know, I think, of course, back home what you’re always going to get is you get into partisan politics is -- I’m in a nonpartisan context as mayor. And so this is the biggest investment of time and public energy that I’ve put into being partisan.
And, of course, when you do that in any position, then you get some of the sniping that goes with partisan politics, so a little bit of that. You know, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that, you know, as a Republican -- a Republican in San Antonio who’s watching it, I think for a lot of people, they’re very proud, just that the San Antonio mayor is up there. For the people that are really partisan in San Antonio, I imagine that it’s -- I can imagine that it’s off-putting. And whether it’s on Twitter or Facebook or wherever, of course you’re going to get some of that.
QUESTION: And you follow all of that or some of that?
CASTRO: I follow all of it.
QUESTION: Are you a Twitter guy? You read Twitters about yourself?
QUESTION: Can I ask you a more personal question, Mr. Mayor?
CASTRO: Yeah. Yeah.
QUESTION: You know, what people know about you -- or most people is that you’re an identical twin, but tell me some more. What -- what was your political spark? You know, were you like Clinton? Were you running for office in high school all the time? Or did it come later? Did you and your brother always talk politics as kids? And what lit the spark for you?
CASTRO: You know, one of the things that I joke about that is actually true is that my brother and I, we did grow up in a political household. My mother was very active. But we did not like it when we were growing up, because she really would drag us to places, and we would have to sit there through meetings and other things, and that’s not what you want to do when you’re a kid, you know?
And so I was skeptical of the process until I got to college. When I got to college, it was the first time that I was really away from San Antonio. And when I got there, I could compare this place that I had grown up in with the Bay Area at Stanford. And I saw, you know, the good and the bad. I saw in the Bay Area -- I mean, I was amazed -- and you had a very well-educated area, community. You had a high-income community. I got there in 1992, at the beginning of this, you know, enormous tech boom, Internet boom. So it was very entrepreneurial. It was ready for the 21st century.
About San Antonio, what I love -- and for those of you all who know San Antonio -- it’s a big city. It still feels in many ways like a small town. There’s still a sense of community about it. The way I describe it is that if two people are walking downtown in San Antonio, that people still look each other in the eye. Try walking down midtown Manhattan and doing that. There’s a sense of community that still exists. And people are hardworking, and it’s culturally rich.
And so my -- my interest in politics was born out of, how could you create a community that was both of those things? You know, like this great community that is a big city where people are authentic and it’s culturally rich, and then also is well educated, is taking on the jobs of the 21st century, the way that the Bay Area I saw was in the 1990s?
And that’s basically what I’ve tried to do in San Antonio. I mean, my vision for San Antonio is to create a brain-powered community that is the liveliest city in the United States. And that pre-K initiative that I have on the ballot, I’m asking folks for an eighth of a cent sales tax increase. I’m telling them, yes, I’m asking you for a sales tax increase, that taxes - - has three letters, but it’s a four-letter word. But, you know, $7.81 to the average household in San Antonio -- so that’s how I first got interested in actually running for office.
And then by the time Joaquin and I got to law school, I knew that I wanted to go back home to San Antonio. And because we had term limits of two two-year terms, I could tell when there would be an opening in 2001. And so I saw what the opening would be, yeah, and I started campaigning when I was still at Harvard.
QUESTION: What actually shaped your political philosophy? Was it the kinds of events you were taken to by your mother? Was it that Bay Area tech boom? And how would you -- you know, how would you describe your own political beliefs?
CASTRO: I think, of course, you know, growing with my mother and my dad, who had been active, too, influenced me, and then going to college and getting away and seeing a different environment, and seeing, you know, what America could be, you know, the success that folks can have, and that - that the sunnier side, I think of it, was very, very influential to me.
And I think that’s -- and then just the -- seeing that and reflecting on the progress that we have made as a nation sort of helped me end up where I’m at, which is having a very deep respect for all the struggles that people had to go through -- and in some circumstances, still are -- you know, to get to where we are now, but also having kind of a glass-half-full mentality of knowing that, you know, we do the right things and you make the right investments, that you can make progress.
So it was all of that stuff. I think just with anybody, it’s several points in life.
QUESTION: And any politician other than your mom and dad who was a particular inspiration, model?
CASTRO: I mean, growing up, I used to -- my brother and I used to read a little bit and then watch like Bobby Kennedy and Cesar Chavez of the United Farm Workers. And then Henry Cisneros, of course, was the mayor of San Antonio in the 1980s when we were growing up, which I think was important, because it showed, well, look, you can do this, you know?
And Henry at that time, as you all remember -- I know you used to write about him -- was just an amazing -- led the city very well, made a lot of great improvements to San Antonio, so that was inspirational back then.
QUESTION: Did you ever have a rebellious moment when you’d think about becoming a Republican? Is your mother a Democrat?
CASTRO: Yeah. She is. No, not really.
QUESTION: Can I ask you one other quick political question?
CASTRO: You don’t mind if I get to eat a little bit of this -
QUESTION: -- real slow.
HUNT: Hold off for a minute, so he gets a little bit of chance -- he hasn’t had a chance to eat at all.
QUESTION: It’ll be a slow question. I was wondering if Jan Brewer, if her policies that you spoke of -- and you also spoke of voter registration changes there -- is there any chance she’s risking putting her state into play in the presidential? Or are the economics so difficult in that that state, that that’s just going to remain a bridge too far for the presidency?
CASTRO: I believe that Arizona has -- has become more in play because of those policies. I don’t know, at the end of the day -- I don’t believe right now it’s at the top tier of being in play. But I do think that because of those policies, that it’s moved along the scale closer to being winnable by a Democrat. But maybe not -- probably will still go Republican this year.
Because I do believe that she’s incited a lot of frustration in the Latino community. And as I said, a 49 percent jump in voter registration, those folks are -- look what happened to -- what’s it, Russell Pearce, you have seen some backlash. And once these folks start voting, I think that they’re going to keep up a habit of voting, and so she may have opened up a Pandora’s box vis-a-vis the Republican Party for the long haul, just like Pete Wilson did in California.
HUNT: We got time for a couple more questions. Anybody from this end of the table? I’ve neglected the right --
HUNT: Jump in.
QUESTION: On the left here, Mr. Mayor, sorry to pull you back in this direction again. You could argue that last night President Clinton in 48 minutes made a more compelling case, defense of the Obama record than the president has been able to do over a much longer period of time. You’re a pretty good speaker yourself (OFF-MIKE) do you have any thoughts about why (OFF-MIKE) so much difficulty breaking through (OFF-MIKE).
CASTRO: Well, first, I’d say that, you know, to be fair to the president, folks are always going to be a little tougher on the guy who’s actually in office versus someone who’s not in office. I agree with you. Bill Clinton always delivers, and he delivered last night, very, very well, as he always does. Was it 48 minutes?
CASTRO: OK, OK. But --
QUESTION: Of his assigned 25.
CASTRO: -- this time --
QUESTION: Those of us on deadline, though --
CASTRO: This time, we were riveted for the 48 minutes.
HUNT: I will tell you, beforehand, I saw one of the persons working on his speech, and I said, I’ve got the under, in the 33 minutes. And he said, you’re such a (inaudible).
CASTRO: I think it’s because, you know, folks are tougher, of course, on the person who’s actually in office. I do believe that President Obama has made a compelling case, but people are also judging him as the president, and Bill Clinton is very effective, but he’s also -- he’s not the one that’s being judged right now. So it’s a little unfair to the president to make the comparison.
I do think that, as Michelle Obama did so well in her speech, I do think the president has an opportunity to personalize it, you know? I mean, he can also speak to his experience. She was right alongside there with him. The things she was speaking about, in terms of how they struggled, the way that many Americans struggle, I mean, that’s his experience. And not only can he speak it, I mean, he’s written about that.
And -- and I believe that he has an opportunity tonight to connect with people, to personalize it. Sometimes that’s more difficult in the day-to-day sort of in-office kind of -- but this is a great moment where it calls for exactly that, where everybody’s stepping back and giving you the platform to, OK, make the case. So if he personalizes it tonight, I think that’ll help.
HUNT: Time for --
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) should be his emphasis, rather than policy?
CASTRO: I think it’s -- it’s to weave those two things together. And he can do it -- I think he has the opportunity to do it in a more direct way than the first lady would do that, of course.
HUNT: Time for one more very slow question, as the mayor tries to get a little bit more of breakfast in.
QUESTION: Mr. Mayor, as you’ve watched this presidential race unfold, given the state of the economy around the country, do you think there’s ever been an opportunity for Republicans to expand their support with Latino voters, in particular Mitt Romney? And where have you seen (OFF-MIKE) I mean, where has he, like, missed a chance to win over more Hispanic support along the way? Is it a specific thing he said? Or is it more the broader policies from the Republican Party dating back to the Arizona law?
CASTRO: He -- he just has a great headwind because of the immigration policy, but also that he had to run so far to the right in the primary. It’s difficult to get back now. I mean, talking about self-deportation, you know, it just rubbed the Hispanic community the wrong way, I think.
You know, and I -- you know, nobody speaks for the entire Hispanic community, and I -- I don’t pretend to, but it’s my sense that it rubbed the Hispanic community that wrong way. That -- and also the -- as I said before, the policies that he actually embraces, you’re talking about eliminating funding for education -- reducing it and doing away with the Affordable Care Act, I mean, and then tax policy. I mean, people get what the consequence would be in their own lives of that. And the experience that Latinos are living by and large in the United States is that the Affordable Care Act would make a difference for them. You know, the Pell Grants and scholarships does make a difference for their children. The tax policy that he would embrace of favoring -- attending to (ph) favor folks who have -- who are more wealthy, I mean, they’re watching that, and so that’s not -- that’s not me and my family, you know?
So, I mean, he had an opportunity -- an opportunity in theory, but because of the primary and because of where he has gone, you know, he hasn’t taken advantage of it.
And then I would just say, secondly, I don’t know that he ever -- with George Bush, as I said before, he came up in Texas. He was used to dealing with Latino issues. Mitt Romney, you know, was in Michigan and then, of course, in Massachusetts -- I just think it’s foreign to him. He doesn’t have a good feel for it, doesn’t have the political nuance.
HUNT: Mr. Mayor, I wish we could have had a breakfast like this in 2004 in Boston. It would have been -- it would have been helpful to all of us. And we all look forward -- it was great to meet you. We look forward --
CASTRO: Thank you very much.
HUNT: -- to seeing you again in the years ahead. Thank you for being here.
CASTRO: I appreciate it. Thank you.
HUNT: You can actually eat something --
CASTRO: Oh, it’s all right. It’s all right. Thank you all.
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