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Castro exits the race -- and enters the history books

Ruben Navarrette Jr. on

SAN DIEGO -- It's like they say: The pioneers take the arrows.

Julián Castro is but the latest example. This week, my friend of nearly two decades -- who most pundits agreed won the first Democratic debate in June but failed to meet the threshold for recent debates -- abruptly ended his nearly yearlong presidential bid, which was always plagued by a poor showing in the polls.

Ah yes, the polls. Castro hit home runs on multiple fronts: giving voice to the downtrodden, marginalized and forgotten; advancing thorny issues like police violence and whether early-voting states should better reflect America's diversity; and prodding fellow Democrats to be braver in taking positions on such issues as decriminalizing unauthorized border crossings.

But Castro struck out in the polls. Before exiting the race, he was polling at 1%.

As part of the media, I blame the media.

The demise of Castro's White House bid isn't just a sad statement about the unwillingness of allegedly progressive white voters in early-voting states to get behind the most progressive candidate in the race. It isn't just an indictment against the Democratic National Committee, which is getting what it seems to have wanted -- the simplicity of a narrow field of choices bereft of the racial or ethnic diversity that could scare off skittish white voters in Rust Belt states.

 

It's also a poor reflection on the Fourth Estate, and how we manipulate presidential races. Media neglect leads to low poll numbers, which hurts fundraising. Then the media cites a lack of money as an excuse to write you off. It's a vicious circle.

But who gets polled? Is it mostly people in homogenous states like Iowa (85% white) and New Hampshire (90% white)?

When someone actually bothered to ask Latinos who they supported, Castro did well. In April, a national poll of Latino voters by the polling firm Latino Decisions put Castro in fourth place in what was then still a crowded field. Castro trailed only Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and -- the liberal white media's official "Latino" stand-in -- Robert Francis "Beto" O'Rourke, who we were often reminded speaks better Spanish than the former secretary of housing and urban development. Castro's lack of Spanish fluency, which seemed to interest white reporters more than it did Latino voters, was just one of the arrows that Castro took. It didn't draw blood. News flash: 80% of U.S. Latinos speak English.

What ultimately felled Castro were the arrows of neglect, disregard and indifference. He wasn't attacked by the media, the Democratic Party and white Democrats who live in early voting states. Worse, he was ignored by them.

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