Influx of Puerto Ricans Could Be Game Changer in Biggest Swing State

by | Mar 14, 2016 | Bocaítos | Comments

With one day left before the all-important Florida primary, Puerto Ricans are taking center stage as the possible deciders of the night. With “as many as 1,000 Puerto Ricans” arriving in central Florida each week, the population has finally reached the critical point at which it becomes an electoral force on its own.

The surging Puerto Rican electorate, a swing demographic in the nation’s quintessential swing state, supported Barack Obama for president but backed Charlie Crist for governor when he was a Republican. They could soon surpass Cubans, whose conservative leanings long dominated Latino politics here.

Because Puerto Ricans are the fastest-growing group of voters in a contested corridor of a battleground state, “you could make the case that they’re the most important voters in the United States,” said Fernand Amandi, a Florida pollster.

“Puerto Rican voters have completely upended the understanding of how the state is going to vote in November,” Amandi said. “They could wake up in San Juan, have breakfast and be registered to vote in the U.S. come dinnertime. You see both parties doing a full-court press to win over what could very well be the decisive vote.”

Faced with $72 billion in debt and soaring unemployment, Puerto Rico is losing tens of thousands of people each year. The Caribbean island’s population dropped each year by 48,000 people from 2010 to 2013, according to data from the Pew Research Center.

While conventional wisdom assigns these votes mostly to the Democratic side, the large size means Republicans are also making a push for their votes. We will see tomorrow which side reflects a larger percentage of the Puerto Rican Florida vote.