President Obama will make the first presidential visit to the United States territory of Puerto Rico since John F. Kennedy made the trip in December 1961. He will only spend a few hours on the island to meet with the Republican governor and attend a fundraiser, but the face-time in the Latin community ahead of the 2012 election could be worth much more.
“Reaching out the Puerto Ricans is part of a broader effort to court Hispanics, who accounted for more than half the U.S. population increase over the past decade and now number about 50 million,” the Associated Press reports. “The number of people of Puerto Rican descent, the second largest Hispanic group in the U.S. after Mexicans, grew by 36 percent over the past decade to 4.6 million, according to the census. The island’s population fell by 2 percent during that time as people fled a dismal economy.”
According to the AP, Democrats see the Puerto Ricans in Florida as a potential counterbalance to the larger, traditionally Republican Cuban-American community in the state Obama needs badly to win this election cycle. So he and his campaign are spreading good will back in the old country to appeal to voters with ties there in the States.
This will be the first trip in decades made by a president to the territory, mirroring the new reality in America – Hispanic Americans are the new people of color politicians have to pander to. Like a friend of mine suggested a few days ago, Hispanics, blacks and gays should unite and we’d have all of these politicians visiting both Puerto Rico and Haiti to get our votes.