Puerto Rico Primary

March 18, 2012 by staff 

Puerto Rico Primary, Puerto Rico held its Republican presidential primary on Sunday, with 20 of the U.S. territory’s 23 delegates up for grabs in a race in which an upcoming vote on statehood has taken central stage.

Mitt Romney, campaigning hard for the trove of delegates on the island, had initially planned to stay in San Juan until Sunday before heading to Illinois, which holds a crucial primary on Tuesday.

But the Republican front-runner decided Friday to return to Illinois a day earlier than scheduled in a sign of the urgency his campaign feels to win Illinois over rival Rick Santorum.

Aides to Romney said only that the former Massachusetts governor wanted to spend more time in Illinois, but a campaign that typically plans its schedule days in advance seemed to be scrambling.

Romney is still in a commanding position in the race to determine who will face Democratic President Barack Obama in the November 6 election.

He has a big lead in support from party delegates whose backing is needed to win the nomination, but his campaign is eager for a symbolic victory to counter the momentum Santorum picked up by winning in Mississippi and Alabama last Tuesday.

As Romney flew out of Puerto Rico his campaign appeared confident that he would sweep the nominating contest in the territory because of remarks rival Rick Santorum made last week that angered many Puerto Ricans.

Santorum, whose Catholicism and social conservatism could still resonate among some voters in the predominantly Roman Catholic territory, said that if Puerto Rico wanted to pursue statehood it would have to make English its primary language.

“You can’t impose English on people. My sense is that he (Santorum) was very poorly advised or he would not have said what he said,” Ana Lydia Porrata-Doria, 69, who cast her vote for Romney, told Reuters.

“Even though we want to be a state, we have a right to speak Spanish which is our first language,” said Iris Segarra, 59, a statehood supporter and Democrat who did not vote on Sunday.

Romney, whose Puerto Rico campaign was endorsed by just about every prominent Republican on the island led by Governor Luis Fortuno, seized on his opponent’s misstep by declaring that he would assist Puerto Rico in pursuing statehood if that’s what its citizens voted to do.

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