No one really expected Mitt Romney to get seriously challenged in Puerto Rico, where the governor had already endorsed him and where Romney’s campaign had spent more resources and time than the other candidates. Even with high expectations, though, the margin of victory in the US territory’s primary was overwhelming:
Mitt Romney has scored a resounding win in Puerto Rico’s Republican primary, a usually overlooked contest that has given him momentum in the hotly contested White House race.
With a final tally in late Sunday, the former Massachusetts governor had more than 83.4 percent of the vote, according to the the State Elections Commission, or CEEPR, in the US territory.
His chief rival Rick Santorum stood a distant second with 7.7 percent. Former House speaker Newt Gingrich had two percent, just ahead of Representative Ron Paul’s 1.1 percent.
That left people questioning Santorum’s strategy. Santorum had campaigned in Puerto Rico, calling himself “Senador Puertorriqueño” and insisting that he had put himself at political risk by watching out for Puerto Rican interests while in the Senate. He also told Puerto Ricans that they needed to switch to English in order to gain statehood, however, while Romney emphasized his “respect” for the island’s inhabitants and culture. Santorum probably wasn’t going to win Puerto Rico anyway, but that may have contributed to the size of his loss. Given the monumental margin of victory for Romney, the time Santorum spent in Puerto Rico would have been better spent in Illinois and Louisiana, states that hold binding primaries this week.
Newt Gingrich skipped campaigning in Puerto Rico to focus on those two states, leaving his supporters on the island to mourn a lost opportunity:
As polls closed across the island Sunday afternoon, Newt Gingrich’s campaign chair here expressed regret that his candidate never visited Puerto Rico.
“I think if he had been in Puerto Rico, [the race] would have been a lot closer,” lamented John Regis, who helmed the candidate’s meager operation here.
Gingrich skipped the territory despite having set himself apart from the rest of the GOP field for his Latino-friendly tone and relatively moderate views on immigration. In Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory whose native residents are natural-born American citizens, immigration isn’t a top concern. But generally, Regis said, “Hispanics feel like brothers, and anything that’s done for Hispanics in the states is received well here, and visa versa.”
What’s more, Gingrich was an early champion for statehood, the defining platform plank for Puerto Rico’s Republican party.
It sounds like Gingrich had a better grip on campaign strategy. Let’s say that Gingrich could have taken 30 points from Romney with less than a week of campaigning between the Alabama and Mississippi primaries. Romney still would have won 53% of the vote, beaten Gingrich by 20 points, and still won all 20 delegates from Puerto Rico. If anything, the results validate Gingrich’s choice.
Ann Romney says that it’s time to “coalesce” behind her husband:
Mitt Romney’s wife said Sunday that now is the time for Republicans to unite behind one presidential nominee.
Ann Romney stood at her husband’s side Sunday night at a rally in suburban Chicago and offered the campaign’s most aggressive plea yet for Republicans to end their extended nomination fight.
“We need to send a message that it’s time to coalesce,” Ann Romney said. “It’s time to come together. It’s time to get behind one candidate and get the job done so we can move on to the next challenge, bringing us one step closer to defeating Barack Obama.”
We still have two more contests this week before taking a ten-day break from primaries and caucuses. If Romney can win Illinois, where polls have him ahead, and Louisiana, which looks like a toss-up, Ann Romney might have a case. At this point, though, no one will drop out because of what happened in Puerto Rico.