Obama Wants Puerto Rico Trip To Send Message President Obama travels to Puerto Rico on Tuesday. Citizens of the U.S. territory can't vote in presidential elections, but the White House hopes the visit will send a positive message to Latino voters on the mainland.
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Obama Wants Puerto Rico Trip To Send A Message

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Obama Wants Puerto Rico Trip To Send A Message

Obama Wants Puerto Rico Trip To Send A Message

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STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

Today, President Obama is courting voters in a place where they cannot actually vote in a U.S. presidential election. That place is Puerto Rico. NPR's national political correspondent Don Gonyea says Mr. Obama's trip is intended as a message to Latino voters on the mainland.

DON GONYEA: Several American presidents have traveled to Puerto Rico, but 1961 was the last time an American President arrived in San Juan for an official visit - a moment captured in grainy black and white video and scratchy audio. But historically unmistakable.

INSKEEP: Governor, it is a great experience to fly many hundreds of miles into the Atlantic Ocean to come to an island and be greeted in Spanish, to come to an island which has an entirely different tradition and history...

GONYEA: President Obama did campaign in San Juan during the primaries in 2008. The welcome was less formal than a presidential visit but plenty enthusiastic.

INSKEEP: But the most...

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

GONYEA: Fortuna spoke to NPR yesterday. He said the economy will be a big part of the discussion. The jobless rate in Puerto Rico is improving, but still tops 16 percent.

MONTAGNE: What I aspire to do is make sure that we highlight the issues that effect the almost four million American citizens that reside here in Puerto Rico. Certainly, the economy is a number one issue here as well as in the rest of the county. And I'll be raising that issue with the president and ways in which we can work together for job creation.

GONYEA: And those mainlanders are U.S. voters. They represent about 10 percent of all Latino voters in the U.S., a group which voted overwhelming for candidate Obama over John McCain in 2008. So this trip is aimed at a key element of President Obama's base says Felix Matos Rodriquez, a Latino studies scholar and the president of City University of New York's Hostos Community College.

GONYEA: He's very aware that Puerto Ricans are an important component of the Latino population. And they are large numbers of Puerto Ricans in some key states. And connecting with folks in the island sends a signal not just to the island but to the Puerto Ricans here in the mainland U.S. that the president cares about their issues.

GONYEA: Don Gonyea, NPR News, Washington.

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