Democratic Primary a Big Moment for Puerto Rico The close race for the Democratic presidential nomination has unexpectedly put Puerto Rico — and its 63 delegates — in the spotlight. Political analyst Juan Manuel Garcia Passalacqua talks about the climate leading up Tuesday's primary.
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Democratic Primary a Big Moment for Puerto Rico

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Democratic Primary a Big Moment for Puerto Rico

Democratic Primary a Big Moment for Puerto Rico

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This is Day to Day from NPR News. I'm Alex Chadwick. Senator Hillary Clinton is in Puerto Rico today campaigning ahead of next week's primary. She and her Democratic presidential rival, Senator Barack Obama, were both there over the weekend trying to win the 63 delegates there. With us is Juan Manuel Garcia Passalacqua. He's a political analyst and a radio host in Puerto Rico. Hello, Juan. Couldn't we begin here, tell us about voting rights on Puerto Rico because even though you have a primary, people there on the island can't vote for president, can they?

Mr. JUAN MANUEL GARCIA PASSALACQUA (Political Analyst, Radio Host): That is correct. We have 2.8 million registered voters in local elections. And we vote in the Democratic Party primaries, but because we are a territory of the United States, we do not vote in presidential elections because we don't belong to the Electoral College.

CHADWICK: Ah, even though Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens, you can't vote for president.

Mr. PASSALACQUA: That is correct.

CHADWICK: OK, well, still this is quite a moment for you because a lot of American political people are looking at Puerto Rico over the next week. What is happening there?

Mr. PASSALACQUA: Well, the irony is that the colony might end up deciding who the president of the empire is going to be. So it's a fascinating moment in Puerto Rican and American history.

CHADWICK: And how do you think that could come about?

Mr. PASSALACQUA: Well, if Barack Obama gets the delegates that he needs to surpass the limits here in Puerto Rico will be giving him the nomination for president. And he's going to be the next president, so there we are.

CHADWICK: But the political analysis that I've read I think says that Senator Clinton is leading there in Puerto Rico. I'm not sure what kind of polling you have.

Mr. PASSALACQUA: No, we have had only one local poll. Tomorrow, and the day, after the two major newspapers will publish their polls. And other polls will be issued by the weekly Caribbean business at the end of the week. So no serious polling has been made to this point. So there is no way to tell how this is going to go.

CHADWICK: What is it that Puerto Ricans want from either Senator Clinton or Senator Obama? Or indeed Senator McCain?

Mr. PASSALACQUA: Well, one sector of Puerto Rico wants them to make Puerto Rico the 51st state of the union. And another sector wants Puerto Rico to remain a territory, and another sector wants independence from the United States. And they have tried, both Obama and Hillary, to capture votes from all three sides. So that's the most fascinating development in this primary.

CHADWICK: I know that Senator Clinton is campaigning there with both her husband and her daughter. It's the entire Clinton franchise down there in Puerto Rico. Maybe that's going to be persuasive for people.

Mr. PASSALACQUA: Well, I doubt it because in Puerto Rico the semblance of mulatto, what you there call biracial, which I've never understood. Mulatto, like the people of Puerto Rico is more attractive to a people that recognizes themselves as mulattos and recognizes Obama as one of them. So I don't see any possibility that Hillary Clinton is going to win this primary.

CHADWICK: You know, surprises abound in the world of politics on the mainland, and on Puerto Rico as well. Who knows what will happen, but we're grateful to you for taking time out from your radio program to speak with us. Political analyst Juan Manuel Garcia Passalacqua. Thank you.

Mr. PASSALACQUA: Thank you.

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