Photo: Jake Bullington for The Texas Signal
Editor’s note: This is Signal’s first dispatch from the presidential campaign trail in Iowa. We will be bringing you on-the-ground reporting on both Texas candidates in the 2020 race.
DES MOINES, Iowa – The campaign trail in Iowa can be full of clichés. Staff often place bales of hay on stages and candidates take tours of ethanol fuel plants.
But for a college student meet and greet Tuesday, presidential hopeful Julián Castro brought pizza, which was met with applause.
“It’s great to be back,” Castro told the crowd of about 50 people gathered at Grand View University in Des Moines.
Taking advantage of the opportunity presented by speaking at a university, Castro made the challenges of higher education a priority in his remarks.
“In this world, in this 21st Century, if we want to compete in the United States, we don’t have a single person to waste,” Castro said. “We need to harvest everybody’s talent. That’s why I believe it’s imperative that we advance tuition-free college.”
Trump’s slogan of “Make America Great Again,” he said, is the opposite of what he would do as president.
“I’m not much for trying to make this country anything again, I don’t want to go backwards, I want to go forward,” Castro said. “I want to take us to the future – with one exception. I want to bring decency and integrity back to the Oval Office.”
The latest polls, both nationally and Iowa specifically place Castro around 1 percent, on par with candidates Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and entrepreneur Andrew Yang. Castro recently reached the 65,000 unique donor threshold that was required to participate in the first Democratic debate.
The crowd welcomed Castro’s goals of repealing the recent tax cuts and re-entering the Paris Climate Accord.
“This administration is off the wall when it comes to climate change,” Castro said. “…We need to invest in reducing carbon emissions.”
In addition to his stump speech, Castro took questions from the audience on gun violence, affordable childcare, and gerrymandering.
Texas Signal spoke with one student in attendance, Dylan Smith. Smith said Castro was his top pick for president, even after having seen big names like Joe Biden and Castro’s fellow Texas contender Beto O’Rourke speak. However, Smith seemed wary of Castro’s viability as a candidate.
“That’s what I feel is the hardest thing, I think not too many people know about him,” Smith said. “I think he has my support personally, but I don’t know if he’ll ever actually be able to make it.”
Castro acknowledged he isn’t the front runner in the race to February 3, 2020 – when Iowans will head to the polls to caucus for their candidate of choice.
“We still have 40 weeks until the Iowa Caucus,” Castro said. “Right now in this campaign I’m not the front runner, but I’ve told a lot of people that I wasn’t born a front runner. I didn’t grow up a front runner.”
Despite that, he remains optimistic he’ll get there.
“I’m confident that, with your support and support from a lot of folks here in Iowa…we’re ready for the results that I can be the front runner and win here in Iowa.”