MIAMI — Julián Castro has spent months in the shadow of fellow Texan Beto O’Rourke.
But in the span of less than three minutes Wednesday, Castro seized on the inhumane treatment of migrants at detention centers to summon his party’s spiraling outrage over immigration, generating an elusive breakout moment at the expense of the once-high-flying O’Rourke.
In narrow political terms, Castro broke through punching up at a better-known rival, aggressively backing O’Rourke so far into a corner on his signature issue that he struggled in real-time to explain his position. But Castro’s righteous lashing also defined the tone of the first presidential debate of the 2020 contest, in which he and other low-polling men in need of momentum aimed their frustrations at O’Rourke, rather than the highest-polling candidate on stage, Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
While Sens. Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar passed on early pleas from the debate moderators to contrast themselves directly with Warren, O’Rourke soon found himself attacked from both the left and right on health care, by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and ex-Rep. John Delaney, respectively.
Then, Castro leapt at O’Rourke after the former El Paso congressman explained that his administration would “spare no expense” to reunite families separated at the U.S. border and would not criminally prosecute any family.
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