Fox News Latino has just declared Puerto Ricans “the Big Prize.” No matter how you feel about being called “a big prize,” we can’t deny that Puerto Rican voters are important. It’s a question of math.
Florida is a swing state — a state that cannot be confidently predicted to choose one political party over the other. Some states are predictable. Ever since 1992, New York has voted for the Democratic presidential candidate and Texas has voted for the Republican candidate. They’re predictable states. Colorado, Florida, Nevada, Ohio, and Virginia have been Republican some years and Democratic in other years. Those are swing states.
Of the swing states, Ohio and Florida are the most telling, according to Politico. Their calculations suggest that the presidential candidate who wins those states will win the presidency.
And in Florida, experts say that the Hispanic vote in Central Florida may be the most open. One million people of Puerto Rican heritage now live in Florida, and the number is increasing regularly as Puerto Rico’s residents vote for statehood with a plane ticket.
“Central Florida is a key region of this swing state. And there’s a swing vote in this swing region in this swing state, and that’s the Latino vote. Specifically, it’s the Puerto Ricans,” WTVR quoted Esteban Garces, state director of Mi Familia Vota, as saying. “They’re going to decide really who the next president is.”
Since residents of Puerto Rico can’t vote in presidential elections, new Puerto Rican residents don’t already have a party affiliation. And as we’ve seen in polling before, the Puerto Rican voters of the all-important I-4 corridor aren’t predictable in terms of party affiliation. They’re often conservative, for example, even if they describe themselves as Democrats. They are also often accustomed to voting not along party lines, but with Puerto Rico in mind.
This means that U.S. presidential candidates will be courting Puerto Rican voters, and the best way to do that is by speaking out honestly about Puerto Rico.
Hillary Clinton spoke in Orlando about Puerto Rico recently, and she got some things right about Puerto Rico. “Puerto Ricans are American citizens,” she said. “Puerto Rican men and women have served at a disproportionately high level in the United States military over the years. If you live in Puerto Rico, you can’t vote for your president and Commander in Chief… [The people of Puerto Rico] are part of our family, and I’m going to do everything I can to make sure they get the help that they need.”
This still stops short of acknowledging the 2012 vote and promising to support statehood for Puerto Rico.
As for Donald Trump, he may need the Florida Puerto Rican vote more than Clinton, since no Republican has won the White House without Florida since 1924. Word is that he has been meeting individually with local leaders. Trump has not made any public statements on Puerto Rico since his official statement earlier this year, but the Republican Party platform supports statehood more clearly than the Democratic Party platform does.
The big prize is still up for grabs. Let your favorite candidates know that you care about Puerto Rico, and demand a strong position on Puerto Rico’s status.