Sunday, February 24, 2008

Will Puerto Rico Have the Final Say in Obama Vs. Clinton?
Compiled by the DiversityInc staff.
Date Posted: February 20, 2008
With 10 consecutive wins, presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama claimed victory in Wisconsin's and Hawaii's Democratic presidential primaries yesterday. Obama handed Sen. Hillary Clinton her latest defeat as the pair barrel toward critical upcoming contests in Texas and Ohio.

Yet while Obama is on a decisive winning streak now, if the race tightens up in the final days, the most unlikely of territories could in up playing a critical factor in selecting the Democratic nominee: Puerto Rico.

That's right. Once thought to be a mere afterthought in the primary process, the tiny island of 4 million, with its 63 delegates, may very well end up having a crucial say. Puerto Rico will hold the last caucus on June 7. Its delegate count is actually larger than that of several states, including Connecticut (60) South Carolina (54) and Oklahoma (45).

Many political pundits had already tossed Puerto Rico in the Clinton camp. But that was cast in doubt last week when Puerto Rico Gov. Anibal Acevdeo Vila endorsed Obama.

The residents of Puerto Rico find themselves in a peculiar scenario. They cannot actually cast a vote for president, but they are able to participate in primaries and send delegations to national party conventions, reports Angelo Falcón, president and founder of the National Institute for Latino Policy.

U.S. News & World Report columnist Michael Barone questions how the country at large would react to Puerto Rico having the final say.

"My guess is that most American voters, no matter how many times they are reminded that Puerto Ricans are our fellow citizens and that Puerto Rican volunteers in disproportionate numbers have shed their blood for their and our country, would consider it absurd for Puerto Rico to determine the presidential nominee of a major party," he notes.

Adds Falcón, "If this colonial delegation winds up determining the outcome, then this raises serious questions about the importance of holding the first primaries (the fight in 2012 might be which state will hold the last primary!) and the delicious irony of a people who cannot vote for U.S. president possibly determining who that person will be!"

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