Puerto Ricans to Choose Clinton, Obama?

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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- The music is melodious. The scenery is gorgeous. The island breeze is calm, but don't let any of that fool you.

Puerto Rico is election central.

"I think a lot of people here are watching the news and talking about it." Jose Alfaro said. Alfaro lives in Puerto Rico.

"This primary is a political accident," former Sen. Robert Prats said. Prats has endorsed Sen. Barack Obama. "This was supposed to be over on February 5."

And so, while it may not be Iowa in January, who ever thought we'd see this: canvassing the streets of old San Juan in the month of May?

Or this: dedicated phone banks at Clinton headquarters in San Juan, election watch parties and yes, even "Puerto Rican Women for Hillary" groups.

Both campaigns have roughly twenty to thirty staffers here. They're all needed because while Puerto Rico may not be a state, it does have more delegates than 27 states. Yet even though Puerto Ricans have been considered United States citizens the last 90 years, they can only vote in a primary not the general election.

"Why would I vote for somebody in a primary," said one Puerto Rican "And then a General Election comes around and I can't vote?"

"It's really important for us to vote because if we don't vote we are just showing indifference and that we don't care what happens to us," Franciose Mugnano said.

One difference between voters in Puerto Rico and those on the mainland is that voter turnout is extremely high -- nearly 80 percent. Puerto Ricans take their politics very seriously. It's like sport and so the Clinton campaign hopes to make a dent in the popular vote.

"We expect that the people of Puerto Rico will go to the voting booth massively and will affect the popular vote in this election," Prats said.

Polls on the island show Clinton with a solid double digit lead because people here know her and supporters say she's been there for them in the 90's. Obama takes more explaining.

The Obama campaign has made inroads though and discards talk of obama as the presumptive nominee. That was evident Wednesday with a personal visit by Michelle obama.

"Once I sense that we start getting fat and lazy and sitting back and oh this thing is done that is when there are problems," Temo Figueroa,Obama national field director said. "Here you will see people working as hard as they've ever worked."

The statehood issues and the economy are a big deal here. Both will receive major attention if Clinton stays in the race. Her supporters hope that's the case.

"If you've come this far without a virtual nominee well why not let Montanans, South Dakotans and Puerto Ricans have a chance to have their moment in the sun," Sen. Kenneth McClintock, president of the Puerto Rico senate said.

*Original broadcast May 15, 2008.

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CBN News
David Brody

David Brody

CBN News Reporter

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