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Rubio-Castro contrast reflects competing party visions

September 05, 2012|By Michael A. Memoli

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- In Marco Rubio and Julian Castro, both parties tapped emerging Latino leaders to deliver a message based on the idea that the American dream can be realized. But in expanding on that premise, each moved to the underlying philosophical differences between the respective parties’ presidential candidates, about just how much of a role government plays in making that possible.

In Tampa, Fla., last week, Rubio roused Republicans as the senator from Florida linked Mitt Romney’s story to his own, saying their lives were testimony to the idea that America is a truly exceptional nation.

And similarly, when Democrats announced the choice of Castro, the mayor of San Antonio, they noted how his story in some ways mirrored President Obama’s, though he didn’t make that comparison so explicitly.

“My family story isn't special. What's special is the America that makes our story possible,” he said.

But where Rubio argued that Obama’s “tired and old big-government ideas” put the American dream at risk, Castro made the case that an individual success could only be multiplied with a strong government role.

“America didn't become the land of opportunity by accident,” he said. “The dream is universal. But America makes it possible. And our investment in opportunity makes it a reality.”

Rubio, of course, was not the keynote speaker for Republicans -- that task fell to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, in a speech that was noticeably short on mentions of the party nominee.

Castro did not mention Obama much more, but touted his accomplishments in office as in keeping with how past generations allowed the American dream to thrive.

“Barack Obama gets it. He understands that when we invest in people, we're investing in our shared prosperity, and when we neglect that responsibility, we risk our promise as a nation,” Castro said.

And where Christie mentioned Obama just once, Castro invoked Romney’s name repeatedly, arguing at one point that, although a “good guy,” the GOP nominee “just has no idea how good he's had it.”

“Of all the fictions we heard last week in Tampa, the one I find most troubling is this: If we all just go our own way, our nation will be stronger for it,” Castro said. “Mitt Romney quite simply doesn't get it.”

michael.memoli@latimes.com

@mikememoli

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