Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Marco Rubio may or may not get to compete against each other in 2016, but they’re campaigning in Puerto Rico at the same time, if not exactly together.
Why campaign in a territory where residents do not get to vote in presidential elections?
First, Puerto Rico gets to vote in primaries and has representation at the national party conventions. Puerto Rico has an estimated 23 delegates for the Republican Party convention and 58 for the Democratic Party convention, more than some states. So when the primaries matter, Puerto Rico matters to candidates.
Beyond that, people from Puerto Rico who have moved to States vote in presidential elections, and polls suggest that they care about candidates’ positions on Puerto Rico. Puerto Rican communities have been identified as important swing communities for he upcoming election.
This is not the first time either candidate has paid attention to Puerto Rico. In a 2011 hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Peace Corps, and Global Narcotics Affairs, Senator Rubio questioned a witness about the U.S. response to the growing epidemic of drug trafficking and narcotics in the Caribbean. Focusing on Puerto Rico, Rubio stated: “This is a domestic obligation of ours. This is not another country. This is under our jurisdiction, and these are American citizens. And so what is our plan there? How are we working that? How is that developing? Are we looking at some new things that we can do?” (See video here at the one hour 30 seconds mark)
Clinton was recently endorsed by New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. She has spoken out in favor of extending Chapter 9 protection under the U.S. Bankruptcy Code to Puerto Rico, providing a measure of equality to the U.S. territory and enabling its municipalities and public entities to have the same opportunities to deal with fiscal problems available in U.S. states. As Clinton explained, ““The people of Puerto Rico, our fellow American Citizens, are hurting right now under a weak economy that has been struggling for years. Puerto Ricans are proud American citizens who work hard and contribute to our Nation every day and they deserve a chance to get ahead. Congress and the Obama Administration need to partner with Puerto Rico by providing real support and tools so that Puerto Rico can do the hard work it will take to get on a path toward stability and prosperity.”
As Senator, Clinton introduced legislation to help Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans economically by expanding the child tax credit to the U.S. territory.
The Hill points out that Rubio and Clinton follow presidential candidates former Florida Governor Jeb Bush (R) and former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley (D) to Puerto Rico. It is clear that Puerto Rico is on the candidates’ mind this year.