June 15, 2011 in Nation/World

Puerto Rico gets presidential visit

Peter Nicholas Tribune Washington bureau
 
Associated Press photo

President Barack Obama shakes hands with supporters in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
(Full-size photo)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Courting the Latino vote, President Barack Obama made a quick stop in Puerto Rico to pick up some campaign cash and lavish attention on a territory that hasn’t had an official visit from a sitting U.S. president since John F. Kennedy was in the White House.

Obama got a raucous welcome after Air Force One touched down in Puerto Rico on Tuesday, with thousands of flag-waving residents packing the streets for a glimpse of his motorcade as he rode to the governor’s mansion. Signs posted on street lamps showed side-by-side photos of Obama and JFK.

“We are proud to be part of history,” the signs read.

With no pressing business calling Obama to Puerto Rico, the trip seemed part of a larger White House effort to mobilize Latino voters. Puerto Rico residents are allowed to vote in presidential primaries, but not in the general election.

Yet the symbolism of Obama’s visit isn’t likely to go unnoticed on the mainland. An estimated 4.6 million people of Puerto Rican descent live in the United States and are concentrated in a few key states, including one of the biggest prizes of the 2012 election: Florida.

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