Who — and Where — Is Guam? A Pre-Caucus Tour The tiny U.S. territory holds its usually quiet Democratic caucuses this weekend. But this year's tight presidential race means Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are both working hard to earn the four delegates at stake.
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Who — and Where — Is Guam? A Pre-Caucus Tour

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Who — and Where — Is Guam? A Pre-Caucus Tour

Who — and Where — Is Guam? A Pre-Caucus Tour

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The tight Democratic presidential race is thrusting what would normally be irrelevant primaries and caucuses into the headlines. Case in point, Guam. The U.S. territory has a caucus this Saturday, and both the Clinton and Obama camps are gearing up to get those four big delegate votes. Seriously, these are important, it's tight.

So, who is Guam? Let's start with, where is Guam? It's an island in the South Pacific that was ceded to the U.S. by Spain in 1898. It's about a three-hour flight from Japan, and a five-hour flight from Australia. If you drive the length of Guam, it takes about two hours. Guam has a population of 175,000 people, more than a third of whom are Chamorro, the indigenous ethnicity on the island.

Another third are Filipino and Pacific Islander, and about seven percent are white. The rest are Asian and other ethnicities. Guam's economy depends mostly on a large U.S. military presence there, and tourism. And in response to your next question, a person from Guam is Guamanian. So, those are the facts.

But what is it like to live on Guam? And how are people dealing with the sudden influx of attention from Senators Obama and Clinton? Here to help answer those questions, from Guam, on the line is Chris Hartig. He's the general manager of Guam Public Radio. Hey, Chris.

Mr. CHRIS HARTIG (General Manager, Guam Public Radio): Hey, welcome.

MARTIN: Hey, thanks.

Mr. HARTIG: We're actually in the North Pacific, though. We're at 13-north latitude. We're not in the South Pacific.

MARTIN: Wow, it is a good thing you cleared us up on that.


Now wait, one more fact. I'm looking at a map. How long does it take to drive the length of Guam? It can't be two hours.

Mr. HARTIG: It's 30 miles or so, but you've got to take into account the speed limit.

PESCA: Which is what?

Mr. HARTIG: Well, it depends on where you are.


Mr. HARTIG: In one brief area, it's 45, but you get into the southern villages, for instance, and you're going to have things like cows walking across the street. That slows you down a bit.

MARTIN: So, Chris, your personal...

PESCA: Small island, little island.

MARTIN: Your personal story is pretty interesting. You and your wife are from Alaska. You moved to Guam a few years ago. I mean, the biggest difference for you clearly - Alaska, Guam, was the climate, I imagine.

Mr. HARTIG: Yes, absolutely. Pretty dramatic. I mean, the average high temperature in Guam in the summer is 87, and in the winter it's 86, so quite a difference.

MARTIN: Wow, big seasonal change.

Mr. HARTIG: Yeah.

MARTIN: And what, in your opinion, as kind of a newbie there, what are the best and worst things about living on the island?

Mr. HARTIG: Oh, the best thing is definitely the mix of cultures in the region, and being part of the U.S. So, if you're from the U.S., if you're stateside, you're familiar with the currency. You're familiar with language for the most part. Some of the more difficult things, of course, are the cost of living. I think I told your producer that the cost for a bag of salad at the grocery store is about six dollars.

MARTIN: Wow, that is...

Mr. HARTIG: And gas runs about $4.20 a gallon right here.

MARTIN: So, are economic issues at the top of the political agenda? I mean, what are the major political hot buttons for Guamanians?

Mr. HARTIG: The major issues for Guam right now are the military buildup. They are transplanting 10,000 marines from Okinawa to Guam, and that's a major issue about, you know, what the infrastructure needs for the island, the educational needs for the island. If you're going to bring over 10,000 soldiers, plus the support staff, plus the families, that's a large issue.

And the other issue that's been kind of in the forefront lately has been reparations for World War II. Guam was actually occupied, like a couple of the islands in Alaska, during World War II by the Japanese, and the indigenous people have been seeking reparations from the U.S. government for the time that they were held captive.

MARTIN: And, where do the two Democratic candidates stand on the reparations issue?

Mr. HARTIG: They are both for it, and they are both also for the movement of the troops.

MARTIN: And Guamanians, we should clarify, cannot vote in the federal election.

Mr. HARTIG: We can vote in the caucus as part of the primary system and the caucus system.

MARTIN: But not in the general.

Mr. HARTIG: But yeah, we will not be able to then vote again the in the general election.

MARTIN: As it usually goes, is turnout pretty high for primaries and caucuses?

MR. HARTIG: Not for presidential. I mean, the voter turnout overall in Guam is very, very high for local elections, but as people have been jokingly saying, we have four elected delegates. We have five superdelegates. In theory, that's bigger than Michigan and Florida this year.

PESCA: And both candidates' names are on the ballot.

Mr. HARTIG: Exactly, and our delegates are going to be able to be seated.

MARTIN: So, what evidence are you seeing out there that this may be a bigger deal this go-round? The media makes a big deal out of it. We are looking at all the primaries and caucuses and saying, oh, all of a sudden, Guam is elevated into the headlines. Are you really feeling it there? Are people excited?

Mr. HARTIG: Oh, absolutely. I mean, the first time as far as anybody can remember, I mean, Barack Obama's opened a campaign office here about three weeks ago. We're seeing television ads that are Guam-specific. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have appeared on local media sources, as well as Bill Clinton, Barack's sister.

They are definitely making an effort for this little small market, because I think, at this point, any bit of momentum really does count for either candidate. And so it's a little bit bizarre because the population is so used to being told, well, you don't really count in the presidential election because you don't vote in the general. And to suddenly get so much attention is a bit bizarre for some people.

MARTIN: We do have a little bit of sound. Both Clinton and Obama did interviews on Guam's KUAM TV. Unfortunately, Obama's was - he was on what arguably was the worst phone line in the world, so we couldn't really pull that sound for you, but we do have some sound from Hillary Rodham Clinton's interview. Here she is trying to woo the Guamanians.

(Soundbite of interview)

Senator HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (Democrat, New York): Moving more of our assets to Guam.

Like the war reparations for the people of Guam.

And that includes the people on Guam.

The support of the people of Guam.

Excited to tell my husband how important it was for him to go Guam.

Fond memories of Guam and the people there.

Unidentified Man: Once again, Senator, I thank you for your generous time and attention in addressing some of the many matters facing our community.

Senator CLINTON: Guam.

PESCA: That's not how it ended.

Mr. HARTIG: Yeah, that's not right. I have to give them credit, though. Even when Bill Clinton called in, he was able to pronounce some of the more difficult villages, and did it correctly. Actually, last weekend one of the villages has already voted. Inarajan has a village fiesta this weekend, and so they wanted to have their caucus a week early, and there's been some pretty funny quotes about it.

They had 278 votes that have been cast. We don't know which side that's fallen on, but one voter was quoted as saying that the Obama volunteer tent had barbecue and beer and Hillary's campaign tent only had tuna sandwiches. Obama is the clear winner.

MARTIN: Guamanians have their priorities in order. I mean, that's a very loose kind of way to analyze who's ahead in this race, but are there any polls out there? Have you seen which way the wind is blowing?

Mr. HARTIG: We have no idea how this is going to fall. Local labor organizations are supporting Senator Clinton, and some of the past governors are supporting Senator Obama. You can definitely, we're - our station, KPRG, is located on the campus of the University of Guam, and you can definitely feel an Obama presence here. We just have no idea who's going to actually turn out on Saturday.

PESCA: Well, usually upscale and college-educated white people and African-Americans have been voting for Obama, and sort of the blue-collar Appalachian-type workers have been voting for Clinton. Are there any of those people on Guam?

Mr. HARTIG: There may be a few upscale Caucasians, but not a lot, and I mean, Caucasians are only seven percent of the population. It's really difficult to say, like, what's the Filipino vote going to go for?

Or the Palau, some of the other little Micronesian islands that have large populations on the island? Very difficult to gauge. It's a totally different constituency, and Barack has really been playing up on the television that he was partially raised in Hawaii, so trying to play-up that island kind of feel here on Guam.

PESCA: Does that play well? I mean, do they really feel a kinship with Hawaii?

Mr. HARTIG: Well, anecdotal evidence I've heard from people who - we have this weekly fiesta at what's called the Chamorro Market on Wednesday nights, and I know some of the people who have been working on the Barack side may say that they tell people well, you know, he's from Hawaii.

That makes a connection for his side at least that the other side doesn't have. But on the other side Hillary has actually been to Guam, so it's like I said. It's really difficult to know. I don't think anyone is going to know until the actual ballots are cast on Saturday.

MARTIN: Is everyone enjoying the attention?

Mr. HARTIG: I think so. I think that there's also some doubt about once this actual caucus is over, and we can't vote in the general election, if we'll be remembered, but for right now, especially how political Guam is anyway, I think people are loving the attention.

MARTIN: Chris Hartig is the general manager of Guam Public Radio. Hey, Chris, thanks very much for being with us. We appreciate it.

Mr. HARTIG: Thank you very much.

MARTIN: Take care.

Mr. HARTIG: Bye-bye.

PESCA: That was Guamtastic.

MARTIN: Totally Guamtastic.

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