Rubio Wins Puerto Rico Republican Primary
SAN JUAN – Sen. Marco Rubio’s decisive victory in the GOP Puerto Rico primary, with with a record 71.02% of the votes cast, gave a slight boost to the fledgling presidential hopeful’s campaign leading up to a Florida primary that looms large as a crucial contest.
Despite having won only one other contest in Minnesota, many superdelegates consider Rubio the candidate who would fare best in a general election against Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton.
With 23, Puerto Rico has more delegates for the GOP national convention than nine states and as many as two others. Rubio will collect all 23 delegates but is still far behind rival Ted Cruz and especially Donald Trump for the convention in Cleveland, Ohio July 18-21.
“We should have a message that is of optimism; that we are an exceptional nation,” said National Republican Committeeman Luis Fortuño during an exclusive interview with Caribbean Business. “We can accomplish many things regardless of ethnic background, race, religion or what have you. And that is not the message that is coming from the Trump camp. It is concerning, first, because I don’t feel it is positive for the country. And secondly, because as a Republican, it is a losing proposition in the end.”
Fortuño, who was an aggressive campaigner for the GOP in the 2004, 2008 and 2012 elections stateside, sees the possibility of a brokered Republican National Convention, which will be held in Cleveland in July.
“If between now and March 15 the different candidates who are still in the race win a few of those states including Ohio and Florida—the answer is ‘yes.’ If for some reason there is one candidate who sweeps everything including Ohio and Florida, the answer is ‘no.'”
In the overall race for delegates, Trump has 384 and Cruz has 300. Rubio has 151 delegates and Kasich has 37.
It takes 1,237 delegates to win the Republican nomination for president.
All counted, Trump got 13.05 percent of the votes, Cruz collected 8.63 percent, and in a distant fourth place came John Kasich, with 1.33 percent. The votes that some 6,000 inmates cast on Friday reportedly won’t be available until Wednesday.
The local chairwoman of the Republican Party in Puerto Rico, Jenniffer González, said the trend in favor of Rubio had been evident locally. Both González and Edwin Mundo, the Republican Party’s Puerto Rico Election Commissioner, said that based on the numbers, there was no doubt their estimate of 25,000 to 30,000 people was exceeded.
González stressed that the results help Puerto Rico in asking for the candidates’ support for statehood. “This has the effect of putting Puerto Rico’s affairs in the national agenda and that’s important,” González said.
Puerto Rico Republican committeewoman Zoraida Fonalledas said she was pleased with the participation of 38,699 voters, which paled in comparison to the 126,000 who voted in the 2012 primary because this one only had 110 polling stations, compared with the 3,226 schools used back then.
Fonalledas stressed that this victory was important because it better positions Rubio for the March 15 primary in Florida, where there are one million Puerto Ricans.
She also said that with these results, Rubio should get better numbers in the upcoming primaries, such as Florida’s, where Trump is ahead in the polls.
“It is an important event because [presidential] hopefuls express their commitments to Puerto Rico,” New Progressive Party Sen. Thomas Rivera Schatz said after voting at the Medardo Carazo School in Trujillo Alto.
“This is a great victory,” José Fuentes Agostini, Rubio’s campaign president in Puerto Rico, told the Associated Press. “It is here in Puerto Rico that we’re going to change the course of this presidential election for the entire nation.”
By Philipe Schoene Roura and Ismael Torres