Clinton Wins Big in Puerto Rico

Sen. Hillary Clinton easily wins the Democratic primary in Puerto Rico. But she continues to trail Sen. Barack Obama in the race for the party's presidential nomination.

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GUY RAZ, Host:

Well, the Democratic Rules Committee might have dealt a blow to the Clinton camp, but voters in Puerto Rico gave her a boost today. Senator Clinton won the Puerto Rico primary big. She'll get most of the island territory's 55 delegates, but her win there may not help her snatch the nomination away from Senator Obama.

Still, today's primary has been a historic moment for Puerto Rico. Never before has the island played such a significant role in a presidential nominating contest, and never before have the major candidates paid this much attention to Puerto Rico.

For more, we turn to John Rust(ph). He's the chief political reporter with the San Juan Star, and he joins us from outside the hotel where Senator Clinton is staying in the Puerto Rican capital. Mr. Rust, hello.

JOHN RUST: Hello, how are you?

RAZ: Good. So Puerto Rican Democrats, and clearly they want Senator Clinton.

RUST: Well, the whole Clinton family spent a lot more time here than Obama did, for one thing. The Clinton family has a history with Puerto Rico going back to the '90s, of course. Senator Clinton was here after Hurricane George in 1998.

It was the Clintons who forged the deal to get the navy out of Vieques, and as she likes to say, as a senator from New York, she represents a million Puerto Ricans and that she feels like the senator from Puerto Rico, and I think she understands the local issues pretty well.

RAZ: The Clinton campaign is saying that this victory shows her appeal to Latinos and Hispanics. Is that the sense you're getting there?

RUST: Possibly. You know, there are as many Puerto Ricans living in the States as there are here, so I think they'll all be paying very close attention to this, but I'm not sure that Mexican-Americans or Cuban-Americans necessarily have the same values as Puerto Ricans.

But on the other hand, Senator Obama could be Hispanic, you know. He looks like the guy next door, and he ran an ad in Spanish that was pretty convincing. So I think he could appeal to Hispanics, as well.

RAZ: Mr. Rust, it seems that turnout wasn't that high. Why do you think that is? I mean, this was an historic primary for Puerto Rico, one of the few moments where the votes really counted.

RUST: Well, I think there's a couple things. Local politics is very different from U.S. national politics, and people don't necessarily pay a lot of attention to the U.S. politics, and the other thing is I think a lot of people are asking why should they vote now when they can't vote in November?

RAZ: John Rust, describe the campaigning that took place in Puerto Rico because both of these candidates actually went down there.

RUST: Yeah, they did. It was very much locally flavored, sound trucks blaring ad jingles with a reggaeton beat, and Senator Obama did a comunata(ph) in the Old City.

RAZ: A what?

RUST: A traditional comunata. It's sort of a walk among the crowd and shake hands, and you do a little dancing. Senator Clinton went on a huge and noisy caravan yesterday around the city. She went to a public beach and met some people there, had a lunch of seafood mofongo.

RAZ: And between Senator Clinton, her husband, Bill, and her daughter, Chelsea, they visited almost every district in Puerto Rico, right?

RUST: As far as I know. I believe it's at least 50 municipalities out of 78. They've all made two trips here. They've really campaigned hard here compared to Obama. Obama was here for one day.

RAZ: Now Puerto Ricans can't take part in the general election in November, so after today, will Puerto Rico be ignored by the major candidates? Is that the sense?

RUST: Well, Puerto Ricans certainly hope not, but that's what they fear. You know, a lot of people think we're getting all this attention because the candidates need votes, and once the primary's over, then Puerto Rican issues will be forgotten.

RAZ: John Rust is a reporter with the San Juan Star in Puerto Rico. Mr. Rust, thanks for being with us.

RUST: Thank you.

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