Commentary Magazine


Topic: Puerto Rico Primary

Mitt’s Island Landslide Sets Up Big Week

Rick Santorum invested a fair amount of precious, time and resources into campaigning for Sunday’s Puerto Rico Republican presidential primary. But it turned out to be a poor use of scarce resources for the GOP challenger at a time when he could least afford it. Mitt Romney cruised to a landslide victory in the Commonwealth. Romney won all 20 delegates up for grabs as residents of the island turned out in relatively strong numbers. Despite promoting himself as the senator from Puerto Rico, whatever hopes the Pennsylvanian might have had in Puerto Rico were probably sunk when he asserted that the island must adopt English as its official language if it wants statehood. Santorum got only 8 percent of the more than 100,000 votes cast, the sort of dismal result he might have gotten even without bothering to show up there last week as he did.

Romney can now brag that he has the ability to generate support for Hispanic voters even though none of this who turned out on Sunday will have the ability to vote for him in November. But no matter how you spin the result, the delegates he won gets him a bit closer to the nomination. Just as important, the win gives him an extra touch of momentum heading into the pivotal Illinois primary on Tuesday.

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Rick Santorum invested a fair amount of precious, time and resources into campaigning for Sunday’s Puerto Rico Republican presidential primary. But it turned out to be a poor use of scarce resources for the GOP challenger at a time when he could least afford it. Mitt Romney cruised to a landslide victory in the Commonwealth. Romney won all 20 delegates up for grabs as residents of the island turned out in relatively strong numbers. Despite promoting himself as the senator from Puerto Rico, whatever hopes the Pennsylvanian might have had in Puerto Rico were probably sunk when he asserted that the island must adopt English as its official language if it wants statehood. Santorum got only 8 percent of the more than 100,000 votes cast, the sort of dismal result he might have gotten even without bothering to show up there last week as he did.

Romney can now brag that he has the ability to generate support for Hispanic voters even though none of this who turned out on Sunday will have the ability to vote for him in November. But no matter how you spin the result, the delegates he won gets him a bit closer to the nomination. Just as important, the win gives him an extra touch of momentum heading into the pivotal Illinois primary on Tuesday.

While nothing that happens on Tuesday will knock Santorum out of the race, Illinois looms large in his hopes to topple the frontrunner. It represents one of the last chances he has to beat Romney in a large state. If he falls short as he did in Michigan and Ohio, then it will be difficult, if not impossible for him to claim that he is anything but a factional spoiler with no chance of winning the nomination.

Were Santorum to win in Illinois, and right now all the polls taken so far show him trailing, then it will be a huge boost for his presidential hopes. More importantly, it would be the sort of blow to his credibility that would make the Mr. Inevitable reputation that his campaign is trying so hard to promote look silly. At the same time, consecutive victories by Santorum in Illinois and then in Louisiana next weekend would be the sort of momentum shift that would have Republicans wondering if Santorum could win the nomination outright.

But Romney appears on track right now to put an end to that happy scenario for Santorum. A big win in Illinois would be the sort of thing that might lead many Republicans to tell Santorum that it was time for him to bring the contest to an end. Though his backers may be looking forward to a brokered convention, as a man who hopes he has future in the GOP, Santorum must know that there will be negative long range consequences for him if his actions sabotage Republican hopes in 2012 by hanging on long after he lost any chance to win. A big Romney win on Tuesday could lead to exactly this sort of a discussion in the GOP.

That’s why Romney is working hard in Illinois even though he has a lead. In a race that has been filled with ups and downs and upsets of every variety, if Romney outperforms expectations there as he did in Illinois, it could be the beginning of the end for Santorum.

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Puerto Rico: Rotten Borough or Real Test?

Today’s Puerto Rico primary may provide an interesting test for the Republican Party as much as for its rival presidential candidates. In a race that has turned out to be far closer than anyone might have thought, Puerto Rico’s 23 delegates are well worth the fight and both Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum have shown up and competed for them. Though there has been no polling done, it’s assumed that Romney has the edge because of the endorsement of Governor Luis Fortuno whose pro-statehood New Progressive Party is affiliated with the GOP. That assumption was reinforced by the controversy engendered by Santorum’s comment this week that Puerto Rico would have to adopt English if it wanted statehood. However, given Romney’s decision to take a very harsh stance on immigration, the possibility that Santorum will outperform those low expectations can’t be ignored.

But as much as political observers will be looking to see if Romney can exceed the 50 percent mark and thus win all of the 20 delegates up for grabs in Puerto Rico (the other three are at-large super delegates, two of whom have already endorsed Romney), the turnout numbers will also be interesting to watch. Four years ago turnout for a Puerto Rican GOP caucus was virtually nonexistent but some are holding out the possibility that today’s ballot will result in a large turnout of hundreds of thousands. If so, that may constitute a surprising riposte to all the talk about the low turnout for the Republican contests. It will also be a boost, albeit a minor one, for the statehood movement.

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Today’s Puerto Rico primary may provide an interesting test for the Republican Party as much as for its rival presidential candidates. In a race that has turned out to be far closer than anyone might have thought, Puerto Rico’s 23 delegates are well worth the fight and both Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum have shown up and competed for them. Though there has been no polling done, it’s assumed that Romney has the edge because of the endorsement of Governor Luis Fortuno whose pro-statehood New Progressive Party is affiliated with the GOP. That assumption was reinforced by the controversy engendered by Santorum’s comment this week that Puerto Rico would have to adopt English if it wanted statehood. However, given Romney’s decision to take a very harsh stance on immigration, the possibility that Santorum will outperform those low expectations can’t be ignored.

But as much as political observers will be looking to see if Romney can exceed the 50 percent mark and thus win all of the 20 delegates up for grabs in Puerto Rico (the other three are at-large super delegates, two of whom have already endorsed Romney), the turnout numbers will also be interesting to watch. Four years ago turnout for a Puerto Rican GOP caucus was virtually nonexistent but some are holding out the possibility that today’s ballot will result in a large turnout of hundreds of thousands. If so, that may constitute a surprising riposte to all the talk about the low turnout for the Republican contests. It will also be a boost, albeit a minor one, for the statehood movement.

Many pundits have taken it for granted that Puerto Rico will be the same sort of contest as Guam, the Northern Marianas, the Virgin Islands and Samoa, each of whom will send nine delegates to the Republican National Convention via non-binding caucuses. Romney will take almost all of these but not as a result of any massive turnout. Turnout for those caucuses was minimal which makes their representation at the convention disproportionate as well as something of a rotten borough in the fashion of 19th century English parliamentary constituencies.

However, if the Romney-Santorum race generates enough heat to create a decent turnout, it will not only make the results more meaningful but also might represent a symbolic boost for the GOP’s hopes for Hispanic votes. Heretofore, it has been assumed that only the presence of a Hispanic such as Florida’s Senator Marco Rubio on the national ticket would avert an Obama sweep of Hispanics much in the same manner that Democrats expect to carry the African-American vote. But the spectacle of a large outpouring of Puerto Ricans trooping to the polls to choose a GOP nominee may paint a somewhat different picture that is a bit more encouraging for Republicans.

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