The second night of the second round Democratic presidential debates took place Wednesday night in Detroit. The event was billed as a battle between two presumed Democratic front-runners: former Vice President Joe Biden and California Sen. Kamala Harris. It was also an opportunity for Texan Julián Castro to break away from the pack as he did in the first debate.
Richard Pineda, director of the Sam Donaldson Center for Communication Studies at the University of Texas at El Paso followed the debate closely, and says Castro did “OK” in the second debate.
“He is in the second tier of the folks that will qualify, potentially, for this third round of debates,” Pineda says. “He doesn’t need very much. I think last night, he probably did what he needed to do to stay in there.”
He says Castro made an impression on debate watchers particularly when it came to immigration.
“Last night, he did well making that the issue that he wanted to leave an imprint in people’s minds about,” Pineda says.
Castro has called for the decriminalization of illegal border crossings. Pineda says Castro’s focus on immigration is an interesting strategy, but voters may find it hard to connect his ideas with what they see and hear on the news.
“I don’t know that any of the candidates last night are able to really frame that part of the crisis,” Pineda says. “Before people get lost into the weeds, that’s really the important step.”
As for the next debate in Houston, in September, Pineda says seven out of the 25 candidates have secured a spot so far, including former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke. Castro has not yet qualified.
“Castro is right at the edge of that,” Pineda says.
He says the next debate will highlight the generational split between the Democratic field: Bernie Sanders, for example, is 40 years older than the youngest candidate, Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana. Julián Castro is 44 years old.
He also says candidates will have to be more explicit about their plans for defeating President Donald Trump.
Pineda says Castro has a good chance to making it to the third debate.
“He did not put himself in the position to make any mistakes,” Pineda says. “I think that he makes it through … [but] there is going to be a lot of dialing for dollars and a lot of appeals over the next couple of days.”
Written by Caroline Covington.