With Saturday’s four Republican states behind us, today the GOP turns to its first non-state: the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico. (The Democrats also head to Maine, which is mostly known for being the exact opposite of Puerto Rico.)
It’s just one contest worth a mere 23 delegates, so this I’ll keep this short. (“Hallelujah!” -Everyone) Still, I hope to impress upon you that even the non-state of Puerto Rico is important.
Puerto Rico Primario — 23 delegates
Rules: If a candidate wins a majority of the island, he gets all 23 delegates. Otherwise, all candidates who earn over 20 percent split the delegates proportionally.
¿Que pasa con Puerto Rico?: I just checked, and Puerto Rico is still not a state. It became an American territory in 1898 after the Spanish-American War as a result of the roughly ten millionth Treaty of Paris. Like a state, Puerto Rico has its own governor and local legislature, but, also like a state, it is subordinate to the Constitution and the U.S. federal government.
Unlike a state, however, it doesn’t have a say in that federal government, including the Senate, House, and Electoral College. The extent of its representation is non-voting membership in Congress. John Oliver once did a story on the political rights of the United States territories — Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands — whose U.S. citizens don’t get full representation in U.S. government. (Two Last Week Tonight references in three days on PPFA? You’re welcome, HBO! You can show your gratitude through Oliver returning the favor. #ReturnThe FavorJohn)
This relationship is not without its controversy. Puerto Rico is particularly underrepresented; it has more people than 21 different U.S. states, and yet its Americans don’t have a say in the federal government.
But in presidential primaries, the voices of Puerto Ricans can be heard! The question is, what will they say?
Que buscar: I might be corrupted by wishful thinking, but I think that A) Despite his fading campaign, Marco Rubio can win, which helps get us a contested convention, and B) Donald Trump can be held under 20 percent, also helpful for a contested convention.
It’s a contest that should favor Rubio. As his rivals campaigned for the Saturday states, he’s the only one who held a rally there this weekend. His Spanish in an asset, as is his state being the closest one to the island. Four years ago, during a stretch where Rick Santorum was winning as many states as Mitt Romney, Romney won the territory with over 80 percent of the vote, showing that the state leans establishment (or, admittedly, that it leans “winner”). I don’t think he can win 50 percent of the vote to get all 23 delegates, but he has a great shot at his second win overall (thanks to the familiar Minnesota-Puerto Rico coalition), which the media will overplay because it’s dying for him to be competitive.
Trump, meanwhile, isn’t exactly a Latino darling. As you could have guessed, no contest has a higher percentage of Latinos (its 99.5 percent more than doubles second place New Mexico’s 47). While he has had some success with small sample sizes of Latinos, Puerto Rico will give us a better glimpse into what Latinos think of him, at least the Republican ones. If they have been as turned off by him as the media claims, he could be held under 20 percent and shut out from any delegates. That would hurt after losing yesterday to Cruz. Only having four candidates makes a shut-out of the frontrunner tough (if Rubio wins with 30 or 40 percent, for example, there are still a lot of percentage points to be divvied up by only three other candidates). Still, it’s not unrealistic. If that comes to fruition, even though there are only 23 delegates at stake, consider some potential ramifications:
- Every delegate counts as Trump’s rivals try to block him from 1,237. Yesterday began the reversal of momentum, and today can continue that reversal heading into Tuesday’s important Michigan Primary (59 delegates).
- It’d be a failure that the media can overblow, convincing even more undecideds that Trump’s house is burning down around him.
- The bad loss can be projected onto the general election and Trump’s inability to win Latino voters, hurting his general election argument with forthcoming Republican voters who want to keep Hillary Clinton from the presidency.
- Rubio can claim to have won a contest on the weekend in every stump speech between now and Tuesday, which would help him nab some delegates as he tries to come from behind in Florida.
So sure, you might think, “It’s just a territory,” and “It’s only 23 delegates,” but hopefully I just gave you a reason to pay attention to our 51st state.