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Who Is Puerto Rico? A Pre-Primary Tour

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Who Is Puerto Rico? A Pre-Primary Tour

Election 2008

Who Is Puerto Rico? A Pre-Primary Tour

Who Is Puerto Rico? A Pre-Primary Tour

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The Puerto Rican flag

The Puerto Rican flag flies proudly on the island, as it does in New York, a fact that a reporter says is helping Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) lead early polling. iStock.com hide caption

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Politics are a fundamental part of life for the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico. But as one island-based reporter says, Puerto Ricans are growing weary of being able to vote in the presidential primary but having no official role in the actual election.

"They are very passionate about the politics we do down here," says Joel Ortiz, who writes for the daily newspaper, El Nuevo Dia. Turnouts for elections in Puerto Rico are higher than the U.S. average, ranging from 60 percent to 80 percent.

This Sunday may be an exception, Ortiz says. The residents of Puerto Rico have been U.S. citizens since 1917. There are 63 delegates up for grabs. Both Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have dozens of staffers on the island. But because of a long-standing rule on the books, come November, Puerto Ricans who vote in the critical Sunday primary will have no official voice in the final decision-making.

"That's the main problem here in Puerto Rico," Ortiz says. "They're getting to the people," he says of the candidates, citing high attendance at campaign events. But Ortiz says that masks a deeper anger about November that many say will keep them home Sunday.

The issue that could draw voters despite their frustration is the matter of Puerto Rican statehood. Ortiz says half of Puerto Ricans generally say they want to pursue new status — and the other half generally prefers the status quo. Obama has said he will support any decisions the residents make, whereas Clinton has said she is committed to resolving the issue in her first term.

Ortiz says the other major topic of concern in Puerto Rico — as in the rest of the United States — is the economy. "Things are very rough down here," he says, pointing to rising costs for bread, gasoline and rice. "Even the most basic things that you feed to your family are going up through the roof."

Of the two candidates, Ortiz says, Clinton has the stronger relationship with the island. "She is in the lead," Ortiz says. "She's a senator from a state that has a great Puerto Rican population. She's been very close to the Puerto Rican community, both here and there."

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