Latinos give Clinton the edge

John Marino

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - The US Caribbean territory of Puerto Rico can't vote in the November presidential election. But Puerto Ricans are relishing a new-found clout in the race to see who will be the candidate of the Democratic Party.

The island's June 1 primary is the biggest Democratic contest left, with 55 delegates at stake and perhaps giving Senator Hillary Clinton a last-gasp opportunity to claim victory in the popular vote.

The former first lady has performed strongly among Latinos.

Senator Barack Obama, who would be the first black US president, has not fared that well in states with large Hispanic populations.

While many mainland pundits do not believe Clinton can still beat Obama for the Democratic nomination, her supporters in Puerto Rico hope the unresolved votes of Florida and Michigan and a potential strong showing on the island could yet give her a chance.

The primaries in Florida and Michigan were disqualified by the Democratic Party to punish the states for bringing their dates forward without its approval. Clinton won both races, although Obama did not compete in Michigan, and is pushing for the primaries to be recognised in her favour.

"It's far from over," said Roberto Prats, co-chair of the Clinton campaign in Puerto Rico, who estimated that a quarter of the island's 4 million people could end up voting.

Clinton is the favourite here. The one local poll conducted taken between March 31 and April 5 by Research & Research, showed Clinton with a 13-point lead over Obama.

Clinton also has a four-to-two lead among the island's super delegates. Puerto Rico's seventh super delegate is neutral.

"They have not counted Florida and Michigan yet. That could give Clinton an edge. This is still a vital election," said Michelle Kantrow, 37, a professional from the suburb of Carolina.

But the Obama campaign has not given up on Puerto Rico yet.

The senator from Illinois has nailed down a number of endorsements from local politicians. - Reuters