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Monday, November 27, 2017

Storm-weary Puerto Ricans are leaving their neglected island for the mainland in the tens of thousands.

And they’re pissed, spelling trouble for Republicans in Florida and elsewhere.
Maybe they ran out of paper towels.
President Trump’s handling of federal recovery efforts following natural disasters has been a study in political calculation. 

Hurricanes Irma and Harvey devastated Florida and Texas, respectively, but the government’s response was largely praised. 

The response to Hurricane Maria that leveled Puerto Rico, however, has been widely derided.

Supplies and personnel were slow to reach the island.  Volunteers who did arrive found no organized relief effort on the ground in motion and stood around for days with nothing to do. 

Today, nearly two months since Maria made landfall, most of the island remains without power, and authorities continue to struggle to bring clean water and other basic services back online.

Despite the President’s insistence everything had gone smoothly – even famously giving himself a “10 out of 10” – it was clear to anyone willing to look that the government treated Puerto Ricans suffering from the devastation of Hurricane Maria with much less urgency, energy and care than Floridians and Texans following Irma and Harvey. 

Trump’s blame-gaming, intransigence, and refusal to admit any shortcomings in the face of overwhelming evidence only exacerbated the situation.

But one need only look at an electoral map to understand why this may be. 

Both Texas and Florida are critical to any Republican candidates chances in a presidential election. 
Together, they accounted for 67 of Trump’s 306 electoral votes in 2016.

Florida on its own is an important swing state coveted by both parties.  It’s 29 electoral votes often prove decisive in close elections, as they did in the controversial 2000 presidential election that saw George Bush declared the winner weeks later after numerous recounts and lawsuits.

Puerto Rico, meanwhile, has zero electoral votes. 

The island is a territory, not a state, and therefore has no electoral votes in a general election. 

It’s inhabitants are American citizens, however, and do possess the right to vote in national elections – if they set up residence in other states.

Trump, therefore, could afford to drop the ball in Puerto Rico in a way he never could in Florida or Texas because the political consequences were minimal.  Or he thought.

According to a shocking report by the Miami Herald, because of the failure of Trump’s relief and recovery effort in Puerto Rico, at least 156,000 of the island’s residents have relocated to Florida so far.

With many arriving carrying grudges, the exodus has the potential to cause a tectonic shift underneath the national electoral map.

“Politically, this is more than a big deal — it’s transformational,” Fernand Amandi of the Bendixen & Amandi polling agency told the Herald.

Trump only won Florida by 112,000 votes.  If even just 2/3 of these Puerto Rican transplants fleeing the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria vote for the Democratic candidate in the 2020 election, Trump’s presidency will be over.

It would be the sweetest of all political ironies if our forgotten brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico cast the decisive votes.