President Barack Obama made a rare presidential visit to Puerto Rico on Tuesday, greeting a cheering crowd to start a five-hour trip aimed as much at Puerto Ricans on the mainland as those on the island.
The roughly 4 million residents of the U.S. Caribbean territory are American citizens but can't vote for president, while the almost 5 million Puerto Ricans living in the 50 U.S. states have full voting rights, and Obama needs strong support in 2012 from what traditionally has been a largely Democratic constituency.
In particular, an influx of Puerto Ricans has come in recent years to central Florida, a key swing state in Obama's re-election campaign. Other states with large Puerto Rican communities include New York and Connecticut.
However, high unemployment and crime rates back in Puerto Rico, as well as the continuing debate over possible U.S. statehood or independence for the island, adds uncertainty to Puerto Rican political support.
Obama's trip, the first official presidential visit to Puerto Rico in 50 years, shows "the importance the Hispanic vote has in his re-election campaign," said political analyst Angel Rosa.
Rosa noted that in Florida, Puerto Ricans from the island have boosted the Hispanic population in Orlando and central regions.FULL STORY