While In Puerto Rico, President Obama Gets to Meet with Potential 2012 Rival Luis Fortuno

Bookmark and Share    Today President Obama made good on a 2008 campaign promise to visit Puerto Rico as president. For all intents and purposes, it was just another stop on a two day campaign swing that took him to the 2012 battleground states of North Carolina and Florida. His stop in Puerto Rico which followed his attendance at three Miami campaign fundraisers on Monday, made him the first American President to visit the American Territory since J.F.K. in 1961.

La Fortaleza, the Western Hemisphere's oldest Governor's Mansion in continuous use

While President Obama described his visit to Puerto Rico as the fulfillment of a promise, one he made on the campaign trail, it was really designed to boost his chances of re-election among the over 4.6 million Puerto Ricans who live in the continental U.S. and are an important concentrated voting block in Florida, New York, and even Pennsylvania. His final stop in Puerto Rico was at a scheduled Democratic National Committee fundraiser. But the first stop for the President was a visit to La Fortaleza, a palacious Governor’s mansion that sits atop a hill above LaFortaleza Harbor and offers picturesque views of San Juan Bay. La Forteza is the Western Hemisphere’s oldest Governor’s Mansion in continuous use .

There, President Obama met with  Puerto Rico’s talented Republican Governor,  Luis Fortuno, a man who White House 2012 has often been sharply criticized for considering to be a realistic Republican vice presidential candidate in 2012. The meeting gives President Obama the chance to meet with a Govenror whi is a Reagan Republican with a strong commitment to fiscal conservatism and anti-Keynesian policies,  and unlike Presidednt Obama, has a record of success on the econmy.

 In 2008 Fortuno became the first Republican to be elected Governor of Puerto Rico since 1969 and only the second one elected since 1949.  Since 2008, Fortuno took a record breaking budget deficit of $3.3 billion—or 44 percent of the state’s revenues, and administered a fiscal stabilization and restructuring plan that successfully reduced the deficit to 11percent of revenues and will be completely gone by 2013. To achieve this, Governor Fortuno did things such as institute salary reductions of 30 percent for himself , as well as department heads and political appointments, cut expenses across the board, and implemented policies that cut taxes and created new private sector jobs in place of government handouts.

Barack Obama has the honor of meeting Puerto Rico's Republican Governor Luis Fortuno

While mismanagement and the erosion of Puerto Rico’s fiscal situation between 2001 and 2007 caused Standard & Poor’s to take 6 negative actions against Puerto Rico that gave it the lowest credit rating level before being rated as “junk” or non-investment grade. But after 22 months in office, Fortuno’s efforts turned the economic outlook of Puerto Rico around so much that its credit went from a negative rating and the brink of bankruptcy to a positive and the first upgrade in the Island nation’s credit in over 28 years.

An S&P report touts three main factors for its upgrade of Puerto Rico’s credit. They are :

  1. The island economy’s strong ties to the U.S. economy;
  2. The support from the GDB (Global Development Bank) “which in our view provides a stabilizing financial and management influence;”
  3. Luis Fortuno’s “commitment to restore fiscal balance and economic growth and the progress made to date, which has required the passage and implementation of what we view as difficult and sometimes politically unpopular measures.”

In other words, while visiting Puerto Rico, President Obama should take a crash course in economic leadership from Puerto Rico’s Republican Governor Luis Fortuno.

That is one reason why Fortuno is seen as a viable vice presidential running mate for any Republican who is nominated for President. Such a consideration of Fortuno is made as politically expedient for Republicans as is President Obama’s campaign trip to the Territory.   The growing Hispanic vote in the United States makes them a voting bloc with increasing electoral influence. For Republicans, the need to make inroads into the Hispanic vote is critical to the Party’s success. As the fastest growing ethnic minority in the nation, over the last decade, Hispanics even accounted for more than 57% of the population growth in the South, the G.O.P.’s strongest region. So for Republicans, a successful, conservative Puerto Rican Governor who has made great strides on the economy, the most important issue confronting voters, earns his name automatic placement on the Republican presidential nominee’s short list.  Back in January, presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty even said as much in an interview with Politico.

Oddly, if Fortuno did actually become the Republican vice presidential nominee in 2012, while he is constitutionally eligible for both the presidency and vice presidency, he and his constituents back home in Puerto Rico, will not be eligible to vote for him. But as made evident by President Obama’s campaign trip to the American territory of Puerto Rico, that makes little difference since there are more Puerto Ricans in the United States than there are in Puerto Rico. And they can vote.

In the end, while the selection of Governor Fortuno as a vice presidential runningmate  admittedly has only an outside chance at best, for good reason, the chance is there.  Personally I believe that that there is a better chance for New Mexico Governor Susana   to the vice presidential nod in 2012, but as proven by President Obama’s visit to Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rican vote is important and if Luis Fortuno is willing , he is certainly able to be the next Republican Vice President of the United States.

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