Puerto Rico: The Big Primary No One is Watching

Puerto Rico: The Big Primary No One is Watching


Who has 23 delegates up for grabs in a “winner take all” open primary?

Puerto Rico.

Who has been getting little attention in the media despite the upcoming primary this Sunday?

Puerto Rico.

Come Sunday the 18th, Puerto Ricans will be next in line to vote for the man who could be President, and yet, the media chooses to focus on Illinois and other upcoming states.

On Wednesday, Rick Santorum landed in Puerto Rico and met with Governor Fortuño.  He is slated to be in the Island for 2 days, with Romney landing on Friday until Sunday. Gingrich and Paul have not indicated that they will be visiting the Island for the Primary. With Santorum gaining on Romney, while the Romney camp clings to the delegate math, Puerto Rico’s “winner take all” Primary is poised to award a lucky candidate 23 votes come Sunday.

So far, CNN interviewed Governor Fortuño on the night of the Mississippi primary, but opted to air said interview at midnight. MSNBC’s Martin Bashir mentioned the PR Primary but only when mocking Santorum’s Spanish comment while on the Island on Wednesday. As unfortunate as this is, it does not come as a surprise.

I worked on the Obama Primary back in 2008 and for all the attention that the Hillary-Obama duel garnered by pundits, Puerto Rico’s Primary received scant attention. This time around, history repeats itself. Puerto Rico will be very important given the Island’s significant diaspora in key states such as Florida, New York and New Jersey. Boricuas in the mainland could be heavily swayed by how the next GOP candidate panders to the Island-bound Boricuas. Further, given the importance of Hispanic voters in the 2012 election, Puerto Rico is the ideal place for many Hispanic issues to be addressed (first and foremost being language, among others).

Take for example Santorum’s recent comments on English as Puerto Rico’s language.

“Like any other state, there has to be compliance with this and any other federal law,” Santorum said. “And that is that English has to be the principal language. There are other states with more than one language such as Hawaii but to be a state of the United States, English has to be the principal language.”

Issues like the one raised by Santorum are of particular importance to the millions of Hispanics in the U.S., and Puerto Rico’s Primary is the perfect forum to highlight them.

So what explains the media’s lack of interest? If I had to guess, I would say it has to do with the cruel joke of Puerto Rico’s 23 delegates.

As an unincorporated territory, Puerto Rico cannot cast votes in the Electoral College for the President. Due to our colonial status, nearly 4 million U.S. citizens are deprived of their right to vote for their Commander in Chief. Notwithstanding this constitutional roadblock, the Democratic Party and the GOP are free to include territories such as Puerto Rico in their Primary calendar. So when Puerto Rico casts their votes on Sunday for the GOP Primary, it also casts its last vote regarding the 2012 Presidential Election. This deprives pundits of valuable speculation over how Puerto Rico would swing come Election Day, and other such interesting tidbits that dominate the 24 hour news cycle. To quote local artist Miguel Luciano, national primaries are the “most important election that you almost get to vote in.”

The media (CNN, MSNBC and Fox News) still has time to rectify their omission. Puerto Rico’s Primary is the ideal stage for Hispanic issues, much more than Florida. Ignoring the importance of Puerto Rico’s Primary, and its 23 delegates (in a mathematically intensive race), risks giving viewers a grossly incomplete picture of a national discussion.