At 9:46 AM ET, on Thursday, January 2, 2020, Julián Castro, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, acknowledged that this time was not his time and shuttered his campaign.
Julián was an incredibly vocal candidate, sending an incredible 460 emails in 226 days to my non-donor account, averaging just over 2 emails a day. Julián’s emails felt like they came in waves, with greater frequency when he wanted something from me, and then dropping off the moment his goal was met.
Most of Julián’s emails came on the first few days of the week, though he tended to take breaks on Thursdays and Sundays.
Julián greatly preferred emailing during normal waking hours of 11:00 AM – 4:59 PM ET. The bulk of his nighttime emails came during debates.
The bulk of Julián’s emails were about qualifying for the debates. While he made it to 4 of the 6 stages, his qualification was rarely guaranteed. As October came to an end and it became more and more apparent that he wouldn’t make it on the November stage, his email frequency became absolutely frantic.
October was also when the focus of Julián’s emails changed. He stopped talking…
in aborted lines…
that trailed off…
and actually began composing full-paragraph thoughts that could be read and digested. Most of the time. He also dropped most of the repeated references to his mother and his grandmother and their rough time (his grandmother immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico when she was 7, without her parents. She worked as a housekeeper and was a single mother to his mother, who was a single mother for him and his brother. They lived on the wrong side of the street growing up and had many people, including teachers, look down on them and say they wouldn’t go far.)
(I didn’t have to reference anything for that information, so many times had he written it to me.)
Amazingly, after missing a debate stage, Julián rebooted his campaign messaging to focus on his ideas for America, his upset over how unfair things were for certain people, and how he was going to move America forward.
Yes, that’s right. Julián actually began telling me about his vision for the future in October.
There had been bits and pieces before then, but again, the bulk of his email focus was on how rough his family had it and yet look at how far he’d come. He would jump on the smallest slight and use it to further portray himself as a victim. At one point, Trump lashed out at his brother, Joaquin, and included a passing slight to Julián. Julián had an enraged fit, loudly proclaiming at how horribly Trump had insulted himself (and his family) and he wouldn’t take it and he’d release an ad telling Trump what he thought of him and look at how tough and strong he was being!
I was incredibly put off by his campaign emails. By the time he got around to telling me about his vision for the country, I didn’t ever want to see his name again. I had started out seeing bits of his launch speech and liking what I heard, but other than that, the only news about Julián I was getting was from Julián himself.
And the news from Julián was… not good.
Though he was technically more positive than he was negative, 6 emails out of 872 don’t make much of a difference in perception.
It felt like Julián only ever wanted to talk to me when things were going poorly for him and he needed me to fish him out of a hole, usually with money. He’d let me know if he made a goal, but then it was immediately back to the grind of asking for more help.
Despite constantly needing money, Julián sent me a lot of petitions and surveys. Scores of them. And he usually sent them with an email subject promising it wasn’t a monetary ask.
However, if you were to click on the survey or petition, there would inevitably be question asking you for money. The questions on his surveys were ridiculously biased, things like “Did you know Julián Castro was the first candidate to push for Donald Trump’s impeachment? Yes! or No, but I know now!” The money questions never had a “can’t donate, sorry” response, but only “Yes, I’ll donate $X!” (complete with exclamation points.
Even his debate ticket contests, Julián swore all you had to do was sign up to get entered to win a pair of debate tickets. And it’s true, you didn’t have to give money.
But he did ask.
Perhaps surprisingly, the Democrat who got the most of Julián’s scorn was actually Tom Steyer. In just about every debate he sent, Julián railed against billionaires buying their way onto the debate stage and how bad Steyer was for being a billionaire. He took some swipes at other candidates, defending the way he had attacked Joe Biden on the debate stage for “forgetting” what he had just said (when actually, he was the one in error), praising Pete Buttigieg for only taking 4 months to notice a problematic donor and refund his money (and grumbling over the infamous “wine cave”), and scolding Tulsi Gabbard for “wasting” her time on the debate stage. When Mike Bloomberg threw his hat into the ring, Julián switched his “big money bad” focus to Bloomberg’s billions.
In one memorable email, Julián’s campaign manager told me that Julián himself was far too humble to point out that he was better qualified than other candidates getting the media attention.
Humble. It became a catchword for Julián’s campaign. When I began tracking rhetorical devices used in campaign emails, I added “humble” specifically for its overuse in Julián’s campaign.
There was no rhetorical device too overused in Julián’s eyes. He tried every typical campaign email strategy to get attention (and money). 98 uses out of 872 emails might not look too bad, but if you look at all candidates…
Humble is one of those attributes, like altruistic, where if you have to describe yourself as it, you probably aren’t. The occasional “I was incredibly humbled by the response” in an email is one thing, but when you’ve said it 98 times, I don’t believe you.
Even if 2 of those times were said by your campaign manager and not actually by you.
One thing Julián seemed to be good at was writing his own emails. Except the bulk of his emails sounded exactly the same. He’s one of a few candidates who I would have a hard time picking out if the candidate would sign the message, or if staffers would. Look at these three emails, for example:
I wasn’t entirely sure that someone different wrote each of those emails. The message was awfully similar. They all came after the June debates.
But similar messaging is on-brand for Julián. After Cory Booker failed to get on the debate stage in December, he sent a message about how the Democratic party is the party of diversity and the stage should represent that.
Julián sent basically the exact same message a few days later.
I wrote up an entire breakdown of the two emails on Twitter, but by that point, I had no more respect for Julian as a candidate.
Julián’s final email before the one suspending his campaign was cheering about how he hit his financial goal and suggesting I start 2020 off on the right foot with a donation. If I donated $10 or more, I could get a FREE Adios Trump sticker!
The very next day, his campaign closed their doors.