CHARLOTTE, N.C. So it's a zoo. No surprise. For anyone who has been to a national political convention before -- and I've been to several -- it is part pep rally, part Party party,
part national focus on real issues of importance, and part launchpad for political careers.
(You can skip all this blather and just get to the slideshow here.
San Antonio's Mayor Julian Castro is poised -- at this point by all accounts -- to make his mark on the national level within the Democratic Party.
I've talked with some Democratic strategists who say he's got a shot, but it's all about his performance. And not everybody performs like an Illinois Senator did eight years ago.
The Castro brothers seem surprisingly relaxed for all the attention they're getting -- and they're getting a lot.
But for anyone who's known them for some time, it's not all that surprising. The mayor, especially, is good at what George W. Bush was pretty good at: Staying on Message. I remember that's what his press aide Karen Hughes did for him back in the 90's. And I remember the Republicans 1996 convention in San Diego.
You got a good sense he was already running for president. He had a fairly high profile in the convention. Of course, he had a statewide office in a big state. And then there was that little connection he had to a guy who'd been President already.
But I remember just how he was being treated and how he handled himself. He knew he was in the spotlight as never before and that there were big consequences to how he came off.
I get the sense with Mayor Castro that he is being treated by Democrats as a potential candidate for something
higher within the party at some point. They just don't know what - or when.
He repeats the same message he has said for some time now, that he hopes to stay in office in San Antonio as long as voters will stay and as long as term limits let him. That means he could be mayor until 2017.
By that time, the Democrats hope that Texas will at least be a competitive state, with a Democrat having at least a realistic chance of winning a statewide office. If not, there's always some kind of Federal appointment or maybe a congressional seat so there could be twins in the House.
But I don't think that's the plan. Or, let's not say plan. Let's say vaguely formed idea. They want a vibrant, vigorous, attractive face -- and a Hispanic face helps -- to be part of the next generation of national leadership.
The question is: Can Julian Castro succeed in getting past the -- shall we say sometimes nerdy or mild-mannered persona -- and connect emotionally with people in one TV speech. Barack Obama happened to do it in 2004 at a convention speech which was his launching pad into the national conversation, or at least the handful of Democrats who seemed obvious contenders for 2008.
I don't think anyone can realistically expect anything like that from San Antonio's Mayor. His speech doesn't seem to fit that role here at this convention. As the keynote on Tuesday night, where the headliner is Michelle Obama, he's speaking on what some have dubbed "feel-good" night. Attack night might be Wednesday, before the President and Vice President speak Thursday.
Feel-good night is a tough night to bring the most impassioned, emotional connection. Whatever happens, the big question for San Antonio -- for the short term, anyway -- is what would a higher profile for our mayor mean for our city? More investment? More interest from potential new businesses?
Stay tuned. We may know by Wednesday morning.