Sunday, March 18, 2012

Live-blogging the 2012 Puerto Rico primary: Romney takes another island on the periphery of the American Empire


9:29 pm - Okay, I am live-blogging, but there really isn't much to say. Oh, and by the way, it's already over. As expected, Romney has trounced Santorum et al. in Puerto Rico's primary.

9:31 pm - And I mean trounced. With 38% reporting, Mitt's up by a whopping 83 to 8 over Rick, with Newt at 2 and Ron at 1. (Results here.)

9:32 pm - We joke about Romney winning the islands -- Guam, the Marianas, American Samoa, the Virgin Islands, even Hawaii -- while having so many problems on the mainland, but it's hardly surprising. Romney is nothing if not an establishmentarian, and in this race the candidate of the establishment, and that's what plays well out on the periphery of the American Empire (including Hawaii). Even if he's doing his best impression of a crazy right-wing nut, the outposts of the GOP in these places know well where their bread's buttered. And it's with those who can bring them the most, centrist-oriented establishment figures who actually have a shot of winning (i.e., Mitt, not Rick) and who, down the road, can send some resources their way. Santorum's appeal isn't to those on the periphery, geographically speaking, but to those in the heartland, where there's no need to suck up to the center and where ideology (and theocracy) trumps reality.

9:39 pm - And it helps, of course, that Romney has been a national figure, and leading Republican contender, much longer than Santorum has, that he has loads of money and extentive organization, and that, in the case of the far-flung Pacific islands, he could send one of his sons to campaign on his behalf.

9:42 pm - And, of course, there's the not insignificant matter of Puerto Rico's potential statehood. Basically, from what I can tell, the Republican Party in Puerto Rico is aligned with the statehood movement. Santorum is supportive of statehood but said a few days ago that it should only become a state if English were "the main language." He clarified his controversial remark a day later:

"What I said is English has to be learned as a language and this has to be a country where English is widely spoken and used, yes," Santorum told reporters, stating that the use of English should be a "condition" if Puerto Rico is to become a state. The island, he said, "needs to be a bilingual country, not just a Spanish speaking country."

"I think English and Spanish – obviously Spanish is going to be spoken here on the island – but this needs to be a bilingual country, not just a Spanish-speaking country, and right now it is overwhelmingly just Spanish speaking. But it needs to have, in order to fully integrate into American society, English has to be a language that is spoken here also and spoken universally," Santorum explained.

"I think that would be a condition. I think it's important. And I think if you talk to most parents, they want their children to learn English. It is essential for children in America to be able to speak English to fully integrate and have full opportunities," he added.

Fair enough. This wasn't as bad as Gingrich calling Spanish the language of the ghetto, and I wouldn't go so far as to call Santorum a linguistic bigot. There's something to be said for a country having close linguistic ties internally -- we know well in Canada how difficult it can be when there aren't. And while it would be unfair to demand that Puerto Rico adopt Engish as it's "main language," I'm willing to take his clarification as his point -- and, yes, it's a fair point.

The thing is, Puerto Rico is already bilingual, and schoolchildren there are required to learn English, even if it's Spanish that is more common. So while Santorum may not have spoken with bigotry, he certainly spoke with ignorance, getting his foot caught in his mouth at a rather inopportune time.

9:56 pm - As for me, I'd just say that there's nothing wrong with Puerto Rico being a state and also mainly a Spanish-speaking place. Surely America could adjust. And having Puerto Rico as a state would actually make the country stronger, a more diverse and inclusive country.

9:57 pm - The problem with what Santorum said, politically, is that in its apparent extremism it left the door open for Romney, who was able to respond with his characteristic shameless opportunism, his campaign issuing the following statement:

Puerto Rico currently recognizes both English and Spanish as the official languages of the commonwealth. Governor Romney believes that English is the language of opportunity and supports efforts to expand English proficiency in Puerto Rico and across America. However, he would not, as a prerequisite for statehood, require that the people of Puerto Rico cease using Spanish.

This is also called having it both ways, but, again, it's what Romney was allowed to do when Santorum took the more extreme (and probably more Republican) position. And what we see here is Romney pandering to both sides of the issue -- and getting away with it.

But read that statement. It's deeply offensive. He wouldn't require the people of Puerto Rico to cease using Spanish? Oh, how generous of him. And English is the language of opportunity? What the hell does that mean? That Spanish is the language of losers? If I were the people of Puerto Rico, while I'd want statement, I might just tell Romney to go fuck himself.

10:03 pm - But, alas, that's not what Republicans in Puerto Rico are saying today. He's still up 83 to 8 over Santorum, now with 44% reporting. More later...

12:08 am - Well, that's pretty much it. (Just watched Belle de Jour and can't quite think straight, usually what happens after a Bunuel film.) It's still 83 to 8 in Puerto Rico, now with 69% reporting. And since he won over 50% of the vote, a majority, Romney wins all 20 pledged delegates. (You know, the reporting number keeps changing. It was 97%, but now, at 12:32, it's 69%. What's going on? Whatever. Let's just say it's 83-8-2-1. Done.)

12:13 am - Which is to say, the race is still Romney's to lose. There's no doubt he'll end up with the most delegates, even if Santorum wins some mostly moral victories here and there, it's just a question of whether he'll win enough (1,144) to put him over the top prior to the convention.

12:14 am - But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Santorum can win real as well as moral victories, and next up is Illinois, a major prize with 69 delegates. The open primary is on Tuesday, and we'll be live-blogging through the evening -- join us, won't you?

12:17 am - The current RCP average in Illinois is Romney +6.4, and, really, it's hard to see him losing. He'll extend his delegate lead and built on his inevitability narrative, but then what? Santorum could easily win in Louisiana next Saturday. Then, on April 3, there could be a split of sorts, with Romney taking Maryland and D.C. and Santorum taking Wisconsin. And then there isn't a contest until April 24, a big day with New York and Pennsylvania, as well as Connecticut, Delaware, and Rhode Island. Even if Santorum holds his home state of Pennsylvania, hardly a sure thing (though he's been well ahead there in the polls), Romney should emerge from those northeastern contests, and from April, much further ahead and perhaps even as a sure thing himself by that point. But that's still over a month away, which means this race still has some legs, not good news for Romney.

12:33 am - Okay, that's it for me tonight. We'll be back with much more in the morning and throughout the day. Stay tuned.

Good night, everyone.

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