As he faces what is turning into a very hotly contested and controversial re-election bid, Luis Fortuño, the incumbent Republican and pro-statehood Governor of Puerto Rico, now finds himself in a very difficult situation: trailing his challenger by 22 percentage points in a poll released Tuesday by EL NUEVO DÍA, the island’s largest newspaper.
The political spin, as you might imagine, has already begun.
First, the newspaper has a video of Fortuño, who is clearly flustered as he tries to answer questions about the poll and whether he will be the New Progressive Party’s (PNP) candidate to run against Popular Democratic Party (PPD) candidate Alejandro García Padilla.
“There’s a time and place (to inform the people’s decision about seeking re-validate in November 2012),” said Fortuño in the video. “There will be an announcement this year.”
Earlier on Tuesday, Fortuño said that “four years is not enough to straighten out Puerto Rico.”
This poll, along with one released on Monday that gave Fortuño overwhelmingly low approval ratings, comes at a very precarious time for the island, which is also facing another possible round of future plebiscites to permanently determine its political status and its relationship with the United States. Puerto Rico has been a colony of the United States since 1898, when American troops invaded the island during the Spanish-American War. After becoming a Commonwealth (or Associated Free State) in 1952, there is a desire by Fortuño and other pro-statehood leaders to finalize the island’s status.
Puerto Rican Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz was quick to defend the latest poll numbers and remind voters that the real numbers are how the island feels about becoming the 51st state of the Union.
“The real numbers of the PNP are the statehood numbers,” Rivera Schatz said. “The survey is just a picture of just one moment, and I am confident that one the statehood force is united, it will no doubt defeat the Popular Party.”
Even though Fortuño received very low numbers, the newspaper reported that 43% of Puerto Ricans support statehood and 39% support the current Commonwealth structure.
“The strength of the PNP is not to any political figure,” Rivera Schatz said. “it lies in the ideological force of statehood.”
Still, Rivera Schatz said that all politicians should “have the ear to the ground”, pay attention to any dissatisfaction, and then make “adjustments.”Among the “adjustments” that, in his view, could make Fortuño administration, said “communicating the work of government.”
Fortuño: “I Came to Right the Ship”
“I said that things were bad and I came to right the ship and it would not matter if it had a political cost, and it does not bother me when I had to make the right decisions,” Fortuño said in a radio interview.
Fortuño insisted that the former governor, Aníbal Acevedo Vilá and Sila María Calderón, left the country in economic ruin, and in the past two years he has had to focus on “righting the ship.” He hoped that in these next two years people will realize that he has been able to cut their taxes with Tax Reform, to improve the health system and modernize schools, among other things.
“We had to right the ship to do what we came to do,” he said.
García Padilla Reacts
Meanwhile, García Padilla believes he has such a large lead in the polls because “the country is tired of excuses and wants a leadership that will propose solutions.”
“We cannot merely redouble the effort,” the PPD candidate told EL NUEVO DÍA. “This is what we’re going to do: continue working on the street, stay focused, the country wants solutions. No more excuses, you want to fight crime, unemployment, lack of education.”
García Padilla declined to comment on the reactions of major PNP leaders, especially Secretary of the Interior Marcos Rodríguez Ema, ensuring that voters eventually be disappointed in them.
“Again, the country is tired of excuses government wants a new leadership to bring solutions in employment, education, health,” García Padilla said.
PNP Leaders Predicts a PNP Victory
PNP member and Yauco Mayor Abel Nazario predicted that Fortuño would still win the election 125,000 votes.
“It is very interesting. It means that we have to work hard,” Nazario said in a radio interview.
Nazario said that while Popular members will celebrating the poll numbers, PNP leaders believe privately that Fortuño will win the election with a 52% majority.
“(Fortuño) will not listen to the polls and he will keep working, because in the end always the one who decides is the people and we are a wise people” he said.
Ema Rodríguez, meanwhile, said that the people will soon realize that García Padilla “is a great disappointment.”
Said it is “unlikely” that 18% of respondents who are PNP members would vote for García Padilla.
“That will not happen again” Rodríguez Ema said.
Puerto Rico’s Speaker of the House, Jenniffer González, said García Padilla is leading in the polls because it is at the peak of his candidacy announcement. (García announced his intentions to run for governor this past February.)
“From now on, people are going to have to listen to a person who has been silent,” It’s going to deflate like a balloon and a lie it is. ”
Resident Commissioner Pierluisi: “We Need to Roll Up Our Sleeves”
The island’s Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi, a non-voting member of the US Congress, said that “we must roll up our sleeves” and “improve the way we communicate the things that we have yet to do.”
“We must take this poll to help us with motivation,” said Pierluisi. “The Governor has the support of the party. My impression is that he wants to go for re-election.”
When appropriate, Pierluisi said he is “totally focused” on being a candidate for re-election to the post of Resident Commissioner.
He avoided further comment on the fact that Rivera Schatz, appears as the second PNP politician with more support to run for governor.
Rivera Schatz polled at 44% for possible PNP candidates, compared to 49% for Fortuño and 41% for Pierluisi.
“I announced that I aspire for re-election as Resident Commissioner,” Pierluisi said, “I should not be included in a poll for governor.”