Posted by: José Cabrera | April 29, 2008

Puerto Rico may be key to deciding Democratic primaries

Excerpt from Walter Shapiro’s piece “Bill Clinton’s Golden Oldies act” on

Because of Democratic Party rules mandating proportional representation, Clinton cannot statistically catch up to Obama’s 164-delegate lead from the primaries and caucuses. But the popular vote — contrary to expectations — may be a different matter. In outlining the pro-Clinton math, Reiner began with the reality that most calculations put Obama more than 700,000 votes ahead. But that number excludes the results of the outlaw primaries in Michigan (where Obama’s name was not even on the ballot) and Florida. Reiner, though, added in Clinton’s tarnished Florida victory, reducing her overall deficit to 400,000 votes, using a little sleight-of-hand. “We can almost make that up here in Pennsylvania,” he said. “Then if we do that well in Pennsylvania, we’re going to wind up very well in Indiana, in Kentucky, in West Virginia. And by the time we get to Puerto Rico — people don’t understand that Puerto Rico has a lot of voters, 2 million voters. We can pick up 400,000-500,000 there with the popular vote.”

You read that correctly: The June 1 primary in Puerto Rico — whose residents, while U.S. citizens, cannot vote for president in November — may loom large in the potentially vicious arguments over which candidate actually won the primaries. Clinton begins with a huge advantage there both because many Puerto Ricans have family ties to New York and because Obama, so far, has not run well among Hispanic voters.

The English-is-our-national-language crowd is already apt to become outraged when it realizes that Puerto Rico will elect more Democratic delegates than any of the five states (West Virginia, Oregon, Kentucky, Montana and South Dakota) on the calendar after Indiana and North Carolina vote on May 6. But the role of territories in nominating a president could spark a furor that goes far beyond such nativist arguments. Having battled about everything in this race — aside, of course, from issues — the Clinton and Obama campaigns may end up debating the cosmic meaning of the popular-vote numbers from the Puerto Rican primary.



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