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Upcoming San Antonio Rally Key to Clinton's National Strategy

Hillary Clinton's visit to San Antonio later this week will kick off a concerted outreach to Latino voters nationally. But supporters say the campaign is also hoping to run the table in the Texas primary in March.

Former state Senator Leticia Van de Putte at the mic. To her left, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, and state Sen. Carlos "Charlie" Uresti, D-San Antonio, in San Antonio on Oct. 12, 2015.

Two days after her first debate of the 2016 cycle, Hillary Clinton will stand on a stage at San Antonio’s historic Sunset Station, an event supporters are framing as more than just her latest effort to shore up support among Texas Democrats.

“It’s really meant to be a kick-off of her Latino outreach effort, but certainly the Texas primary is on the horizon,” U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, said. “When she thought about the perfect place to really launch this effort, San Antonio was at the top of the list.”

Castro was among a group of Clinton supporters, including state Sen. Carlos Uresti and former state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, both San Antonio Democrats, who spoke Monday about the importance of Clinton’s upcoming visit in the context of her national campaign. Both Castro and his brother, former San Antonio mayor and current U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, will be at the “Latinos for Hillary” rally, where the latter is expected to formally endorse Clinton for president in front of thousands of supporters.

Before the rally, Clinton will sit for a high-profile on-stage interview with U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President Javier Palomarez.

Uresti said the visit will demonstrate Clinton’s strong support among Latinos in Texas, even if the state is likely to back the Republican candidate in the general election.

“I think it will have an effect on the other states that are in play, the fact that you have the Castros involved, you have the Latino community engaged,” Uresti said. "I think it’s a big deal and you’ll see her coming back more and more."

Van de Putte agreed that Clinton’s play for Latino voters could serve as a powerful signal around the country.

“It’s very important for Hillary Clinton to have a very strong showing and a commanding lead here in Texas,” she said.

As proof of Clinton's deep Texas roots, Van de Putte noted that Clinton had visited Van de Putte's mother and great-grandparents in 1972 as a volunteer for George McGovern's unsuccessful presidential campaign.

“She worked alongside people in this community who knew how important it was for the Latino community to participate in the upcoming presidential elections,” Van de Putte said.

That storied background led to high expectations for Clinton heading into the 2008 Texas Democratic primary. Though she won the popular vote due to strong Hispanic support, Barack Obama drew more delegates from the state by understanding its complicated hybrid primary/caucus system better.

“The thing about doing something a second time is you learn a lot from the first experience,” Joaquin Castro said. “She’s got very smart and shrewd people around her, and they did learn from the 2008 experience.”

Also helping Clinton is the Democratic Party’s decision to forgo the “Texas Two-Step” and assign all of its delegates based on the primary vote for 2016.

Joaquin Castro declined to address speculation that Clinton will pick his brother as a running mate if she wins her party’s nomination. But he did strike back against the Republican National Committee’s recent comment that, like Clinton, no one knows what Julián Castro has accomplished.

“What else would they say?” Castro asked. “The fact is, my brother did more in a week on the San Antonio City Council than most members of Congress do in a whole year. He’s got a long list of accomplishments that we’re very proud of.”

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Politics Carlos "Charlie" Uresti Joaquin Castro Julián Castro