I want to say “first in the pool,” but he’s not the first Democrat to make a formal move toward a 2020 presidential run. There are 2 other declared candidates, Rep. John Delaney of Maryland and Richard Ojeda, a former congressional candidate in West Virginia, both have already launched campaigns. Castro is the first “big name” candidate with some national name recognition to formally start putting plans in action.

As CNN reports, he’s got an announcement coming up on January 12, where he’ll almost certainly announce his full candidacy for 2020:

Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro on Wednesday launched a presidential exploratory committee, a significant step toward mounting a presidential bid in 2020.

Castro said he would make an announcement about his plans on January 12 in Texas.

Castro’s decision to form an exploratory committee, which is often seen as a formality before starting a presidential campaign and allows him to start raising money, gives him a jumpstart in what’s expected to be a crowded Democratic field, which already consists of two declared candidates — Rep. John Delaney of Maryland and Richard Ojeda, a former congressional candidate in West Virginia who lost his 2018 bid.

“As a kid growing up on the west side of San Antonio, I never thought that I’d one day be making this announcement,” the former San Antonio mayor tweeted Wednesday. “I’m exploring a candidacy for President of the United States in 2020 to renew the promise of this country for all.”

In a brief phone interview, Castro told CNN that he is “definitely leaning in one direction in terms of my candidacy for president,” and felt now was the right time.

“I look forward to spending the next several weeks talking to folks around the country, raising money from supporters and getting things in place for January 12,” he told CNN.

“I believe I can win the nomination,” he added.

In the month ahead, Castro said he plans on traveling across the country to raise money as well as connect with voters in public appearances, though those plans are still taking shape.

Castro has fallen somewhat off the radar and didn’t even make the short list of Hillary’s VP in 2016, but he’s got just as much of a shot as about a dozen other Democrats at his level waiting to declare. If anything, Castro is probably running for VP and a national campaign will prove to the eventual nominee that Castro has what it takes to shine under the national spotlight for a grueling 2 years.

Why announce right now, you ask? Well, it may be a simple word that starts with “B”:

Should he decide to run, Castro could find himself pitted against another Texas Democrat considering a presidential bid — Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who fell short in his Senate bid against Texas Sen. Ted Cruz last month.

Two Democrats familiar with Castro’s thinking tell CNN that the former HUD secretary’s decision to make his intentions clear this month stems from the attention O’Rourke is getting for his 2020 aspirations and a desire to lock in top Texas donors.

If Beto O’Rourke runs in 2020, he’ll suck up any oxygen among Texas donors for Castro, better to get out front now and get serious about a campaign. Let Beto squirm for a few months before making a decision while Castro proves to his donors that he’s serious. In the end, I’m sure Beto will attract all the donors he might need, but candidates have to make these decisions sooner rather than later, and Castro is ahead of the game so far.