IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Democrat O'Malley Heads to Puerto Rico As Part of His 2016 Campaign

Democratic presidential hopeful Martin O'Malley is planning a trip to Puerto Rico.
Image: Martin O'Malley
Democratic presidential candidate former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley speaks at the Greater Des Moines Partnership Forum, Friday, July 24, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)Charlie Neibergall / AP

Presidential hopeful Martin O'Malley is planning a trip to Puerto Rico as his campaign looks to build his recognition with voters on the mainland.

As was first reported by Latino Rebels, O'Malley's office said he'll take his campaign to the U.S. commonwealth on Saturday. His trip will coincide with the deadline that Puerto Rico faces for payment of $58 million to bondholders, one that the island's government is not expected to pay.

Campaign spokeswoman Gabriela Domenzain billed the trip as a continuation of the leadership he's taken on Latino issues, pointing out to NBC News he was the first to back a House bill aimed at allowing Puerto Rico to restructure its debt and address other financial issues the island faces.

"This is about leadership and paying attention to our hemisphere," Domenzain said.

RELATED: Puerto Rico Bond Default Deadline Is Saturday

But the visit also focuses attention on his campaign. O'Malley polled in single digits in the Iowa and New Hampshire caucuses, capturing 4 percent and 5 percent respectively, according to the most recent NBC-Marist poll. This put him well below his competitors, Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., He has been building himself as a progressive candidate, more progressive than Clinton, the heavy favorite, but Sanders has been filling that space and faring better in the polls.

Florida's primary is in March and winning there is increasingly tied to winning the Latino vote, including Puerto Ricans who have moved from the island in recent years, fleeing the island's worsening economy.

RELATED: Puerto Rico Sees Historic Population Drop As More Come to U.S.

Florida and the South have been more likely destinations for Puerto Ricans relocating from the island, as opposed to New York and the Northeast, the destinations of previous generations of Puerto Ricans, according to Pew Research Center.

Because Puerto Ricans are American citizens, they can vote in the presidential elections if they are living in the U.S. On the island they cannot vote in federal elections.

Florida also has two native sons contending for primary nominations, former Florida governor Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican.

Puerto Rico's fiscal problems have been brewing for years. Congress, though, has been slow to react to the crisis, choosing instead to leave the financial negotiations to debt holders and the island government.

A bill in the House to allow Puerto Rican public entities - such as its beleaguered electric utility - to file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy as U.S. cities like Detroit have done has sputtered. The Senate only acted this month to propose a similar bill, but the proposal has had only Democratic support so far in the Republican-controlled Senate. Sanders has signed onto the bill. Congress starts its summer recess at the end of the week.

Jeb Bush, before he officially declared his plans to run for president, visited Puerto Rico and said in the late April visit that it should have the rights of states. He's been campaigning in Florida this week, and in a recent Telemundo interview, he said he supports bankruptcy filing authority for the commonwealth.

Follow NBC News Latino on Facebook and Twitter