Why Do Presidential Candidates Visit Puerto Rico?

Residents of Puerto Rico cannot vote in presidential elections. People born in Puerto Rico are U.S. citizens.  They can vote if they move to a state. But citizens who live in Puerto Rico, no matter where they were born, cannot vote in presidential elections – even if they were born in a state.

This is because Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States. In the U.S., the popular vote does not determine who becomes president. Instead, each state appoints Electors to the Electoral College, who represent their states. In effect, the States vote. Puerto Rico is not a State, so it has no vote.

The 2020 campaign has started in Puerto Rico

Yet candidates for the 2020 presidential campaign have already begun visiting Puerto Rico. Julian Castro announced his candidacy in his home State of Texas, and then headed immediately for Puerto Rico. Sen. Elizabeth Warren visited in the Upper Midwest and then stopped off in Puerto Rico before visiting traditional kickoff State New Hampshire.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), former Rep. John Delaney (D-MD), and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg are among the other early candidates planning visits to Puerto Rico.

Why?

Puerto Rico has primaries

Puerto Rico’s Democratic Primary will take place in June 2020. If the field hasn’t narrowed by then, every vote will count. And Puerto Rico has 59 delegates for the 2020 Democratic nominating process.

That’s more than New Hampshire, more than Kentucky… more, in short, than many States. With a wide field, Democrats need those votes. If President Trump has challengers, the Republican primary will also be important.

Puerto Rico has mainland voters

There are more Puerto Rican voters in the States than on the Island. These voters are not predictably Democratic or Republican voters, so they fall among the precious undecided voters candidates really want to reach.

They are influenced by news from Puerto Rico and by friends and family living on the Island. Speaking to voters in Puerto Rico may get candidates support in Florida and New York, as well as the many other States where Puerto Ricans have settled since Hurricane Maria.

As the Puerto Rican population grows, Puerto Rico offers an opportunity to test and enhance political messages to be used in States.

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