Kamala Harris
Kamala Harris Ludovic Marin/Getty Images

Kamala Harris is set to make her first trip to Puerto Rico as vice president amid Democrats' renewed push to appeal to the Latino electorate as the campaign heats up.

CBS News reported on Friday that Harris' trip is aimed at highlighting the Biden administration's efforts to boost the island's recovery and the influence of its culture in the U.S. and around the world.

The outlet added that Harris will visit a house in Canóvanas, an area just outside the capital, San Juan, which has been severely affected by hurricanes. The goal is to highlight how the $140 billion in infrastructure and recovery funding approved by the government helped those areas. Joined by Governor Pedro Pierluisi, she will also visit a community center in San Juan and meet with local leaders and artists.

Being an unincorporated territory of the United States, Puerto Ricans living in the island can't vote in the presidential elections, although they'll be able to make their voices heard symbolically this year.

However, the trip can also be a message to those living elsewhere and eligible to cast a ballot. "I think this is definitely a clear message to Puerto Ricans voters in swing states in 2024," Julio Ricardo Varela, founder of Latino Rebels, told CBS News.

Puerto Rico Recovery Efforts Fiona Rep. Pic
Image of Puerto Rico Ana Toledo/Unsplash.

It's also part of a broader message to Latinos in general. This week, the president held a series of campaign events specifically aimed at the demographic in the context of the "Latinos con Biden-Harris" launch.

The push, which is taking place earlier in the year than past targeted efforts, comes as several polls have been showing declining levels of support, with the president even being overtaken by Donald Trump in several of them.

"I need you back," Biden told a group of supporters in a Mexican restaurant in Phoenix, AP reported on Wednesday He added that Latinos are the reason why he beat Donald Trump in 2020, and that he needs to emulate that support in November this year to win reelection.

The president focused on Trump's derogatory rhetoric toward Latinos, recalling several events over the past years and specifically mentioning his claims that migrants are "poisoning the blood of our country." "I never heard a president say the things that he has said," Biden during a passage of the event.

Most of Biden's pitch aimed at presenting November's elections as a choice between him and Trump, rather than a referendum on his presidency. He highlighted that Latino unemployment is at low levels because of administration policies and said his rival "wants to get rid of all the programs we put together."

Trump has been steadily gaining support with the Latino electorate during the past decade, increasing from 28% in 2016 to 36% in 2020, according to the Pew Research Center. In 2022, Republicans got 39 percent of the Latino vote, the highest percentage since 2004.

Whether the effort will succeed is still an open question. Campaign officials believe that voters will start paying more attention to the campaigns as the election date gets closer, with Biden using momentum gained after his fiery State of the Union speech as a platform to grow.

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