MILWAUKEE—Gently, and just for a moment, Julián Castro moved his shoulders to the beat. Walking out onstage as the featured speaker at the League of United Latin American Citizens conference’s unity luncheon here, Castro was feeling the drums, the little bit of trumpet.
A few weeks before, bouncing from camera to camera in the spin room after his breakout performance at the first Democratic presidential debate, in Miami, Castro was feeling the pressure. That night, I watched him pull out his phone, frustrated that there weren’t more tweets about the performance from his account. “I want you to just keep hitting it, over and over,” he told his press secretary, Sawyer Hackett, chopping his hand through the air for emphasis. He was the last candidate to leave the venue that night, past midnight, after most of the reporters had filed their stories and gone home. He waited for a car on the street outside with his identical twin brother, Representative Joaquin Castro of Texas. (They still get mistaken for each other all the time, but they’re pretty easy to tell apart.) He showed up on the traveling set of Morning Joe a few hours later, apologizing for how much he was sweating. He hadn’t slept all night, he explained.
Now Castro needs to prove that his campaign is more than just that one debate.
“Some of it is, you got to make some people believe,” Castro told me. We were sitting down about an hour before his speech at the Netroots Nation liberal-activist convention in Philadelphia two weeks ago. Castro dug into a salmon-and-rice dish that must have been the healthiest thing on the menu at the Cheesecake Factory. (“It’s not really that healthy,” he assured me; “it’s sugar and butter.”) “I think of it as the end of The Matrix,” Castro said. “You remember the end of The Matrix, when he’s starting to believe?”