For a small Caribbean island barely half the size of Connecticut, Puerto Rico seems to be assuming outsized importance in the race for the White House. A flying visit this week from the former Florida governor Jeb Bush – who appears ever closer to announcing his intention to seek the Republican presidential nomination – placed the US territory and its electorate of 2.4 million at the heart of his push to win back Hispanic voters. Bush, who speaks Spanish fluently and who has a Mexican wife, told supporters at public appearances in San Juan and Bayamón about the party’s need to reconnect with the Latino vote.
“We haven’t campaigned in [Hispanic] communities to show respect and to listen,” he said at San Juan’s Universidad Metropolitana on Tuesday. “This is just human nature. If you show respect for people and you have a message that gives them some hope that life can be better, they’re more open to voting for you.”
In comments also presumably aimed to attract the attention of the 640,000 Puerto Rican voters in Florida – who overwhelmingly supported Barack Obama at the last two presidential elections – Bush also sought to soften the Republicans’ traditionally hardline approach to immigration.