STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Julian Castro has ended his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. He was the only Latino in a very large field and struggled to gain traction in polls. Now he's out, but the field is quite large still. NPR political correspondent Scott Detrow is here. Scott, good morning.
SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Good morning.
INSKEEP: And happy new year to you. What did Castro have to say?
DETROW: You know, he said in a note to supporters that he was proud to stand up for the most vulnerable people and voices often forgotten. But he was blunt about the political realities, saying with only a month to go before the Iowa caucuses, given the current circumstances of being toward the bottom of this large field in the polls, it's simply not our time.
INSKEEP: Having failed to win, was he, nevertheless, influential in some way?
DETROW: He really actually was. He really set the tone on progressive policy in a way second only, I think, to Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, running on unapologetically progressive policy agendas, most notably saying that you should decriminalize illegal border crossings.
DETROW: Make it a misdemeanor. Most of the field followed suit. Also talked a lot about police reform, speaking out against shootings of unarmed black men, often pausing in his rallies to name high - prominent victims of police shootings.
As the campaign went on, he became increasingly focused on a lot of racial and economic injustice policies, including, really interestingly, bluntly saying that Iowa and New Hampshire should not be the first two states to go in the presidential primary process because they're overly white. They're not representative of the rest of the country. This is, of course, something not a lot of candidates are really eager to say as they court votes.
INSKEEP: No, no, no, no. I mean, there are people outside of Iowa and New Hampshire who see a lot of sense in that argument, but Iowans and New Hampshire residents - not quite so much.
I just want to note this is a guy with a lot of policy experience. He'd been in the government. He was Latino at this moment when diversity is a big part of our electoral discussion. What does it mean for the Democratic field that - politically, at least - he didn't get anywhere?
DETROW: Yeah. I think a lot of candidates, especially since Kamala Harris, the California senator, dropped out - now Julian Castro - have been frustrated as the field becomes increasingly white and older and mostly male.
It is worth noting among the front-runners we have a Jewish candidate, a woman, an openly gay man. It is a historically diverse field still, but in a party that prides itself on diversity and really focusing on that - the fact that an African American candidate, a Latino candidate dropped out. And Cory Booker, another African American candidate, is struggling to stay in the race toward the top of the polls. A lot of questions being asked about why that is.
INSKEEP: I guess we can expect that if one of those top-tier candidates ends up at the nominee, they'll face a lot of questions about who their vice presidential choice would be.
INSKEEP: Scott, thanks for the update.
DETROW: Thank you.
INSKEEP: NPR's Scott Detrow on the news that Julian Castro has dropped out of the Democratic presidential race. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.