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Suddenly Puerto Rico Matters to Republican Primary - Delegate Counts 2016

Nothing must feel so odd to a rank-and-file member of the U.S. Republican Party than to hear that the fate of Republican presidential candidates may be decided by Puerto Ricans in Puerto Rico this Sunday.  Sort of.

See Puerto Rico holds 23 delegates in the 2016 Republican Primary, and 20 of those will be decided by the primary vote on Sunday March 6.   According to the rules, the votes are apportioned directly by the results in the ballot-box. That is, unless any one candidate gets 50% of the vote, at which point that candidate is granted all of the 20 primary delegate votes.  The remaining 3 delegates are technically "unprojected" or "unassigned" until the Republican National Convention is held (though in reality these have been promised to Marco Rubio).

These twenty-three delegates should not matter in a political race where the winner needs 1237 out of a possible 1777 delegates.  But for Marco Rubio a win in Puerto Rico could be used to argue that he has the ability to unite Hispanics under the Republican brand and do it without jeopardizing Republican principles.  By consequence he could argue that he can steal Hispanic votes away from Hillary Clinton.  Cruz on the other hand does not really want to win in Puerto Rico.  Ted Cruz has neither the ground team nor the community connections necessary to make a play for the island's votes.  He hopes to do well enough to counter any positives Rubio could garner but a better strategy for Cruz is to draw a better line of differentiation between himself and Rubio.  The harder Rubio argues that Hispanics prefer him and his brand of Republicanism, the easier it is for Cruz to argue that Rubio is soft on immigration, even though that issue is generally and logically null for Puerto Ricans.

Don't be surprised on Monday when Rubio claims himself the face of a new Republicam Party based on his win in Puerto Rico, and Cruz claims to be the greater stalwart against amnesty and lax immigration policies.


In the mean time, the Republican primary in Puerto Rico also gives us a great chance to see how easily the candidates  gaffe their way through the island.  The most recent tumble of the tongue happened in 2012, when presidential candidate Rick Santorum managed to alienate the very base of Republican Party support in the island when he noted his belief that Puerto Rico must speak English to be a State of the Union.

"Obviously, people can speak Spanish... but everybody needs to speak English..." he says in the interview with WIPR when asked about the process that the island would need to undergo to become a state.  His answer was the expected answer for anyone running in the Republican field.  Though we could get stuck here deconstructing the historical accuracy of whole statement but that never mattered because whatever rationale he offered would not make up for the slap in the face that the statement became for the local Republican Party of Puerto Rico and its allies on the Partido Nuevo Progresista. 

  
 

The notion that Puerto Ricans will need to adopt English, sounds a lot like saying that Puerto Ricans need to turn their backs to the Spanish-language and over 500 years of heritage to become a US state. These are notions that are quickly and strenuously disavowed by both the Republican Party of Puerto Rico and the pro-statehood Partido Nuevo Progresista. The result was to hand the other political parties in the island another reason to distrust the PNP party heading into the 2012 gubernatorial elections. So you can expect every Republican, and possibly every Democrat, presidential candidate to be asked the same question.

Or that time in 2008 when Daddy Yankee endorsed John McCain which is still one of the greatest comedic episodes in US-Puerto Rico conservative politics.

If any of the presidential primary candidates head to Puerto Rico this weekend, it is  possible this GOP-PNP alliance will again make for great Sunday morning breakfast entertainment on March 6.   

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