Posts Tagged ‘Romney’

Now it gets interesting. Just a month before Puerto Ricans get to determine the fate of incumbent pro-statehood Republican governor Luis Fortuño as well as vote on yet another non-binding political status plebiscite, today’s poll by El Nuevo Día (the island’s largest newspaper) has Fortuño trailing pro-commonwealth Democratic challenger Alejandro García Padilla by just two points, 41%-39%.

The poll, published today, suggests that Fortuño continues to gain as he seeks his second term as Puerto Rico’s governor. According to reports, García Padilla was leading by 5 percentage points after an August poll and by 7 percentage points after a poll in May. Fortuño, who favors statehood for Puerto Rico and is head of the island’s New Progressive Party, has recently turned his campaign push as a push for statehood, even though the upcoming plebiscite—held the same day as the elections—would be non-binding, meaning that the US Congress would still have to decide Puerto Rico’s political status and while Mitt Romney has promised that if Puerto Ricans chose statehood in the plebiscite he would push for the island’s entry into the Union, President Obama went on record last year to say that the plebiscite’s results would have to be pretty definitive before Congress could act.

As for Puerto Rico’s Independentista candidate Juan Dalmau? According to the latest poll, he is still stuck at 4%. That is less than those who told said they were still undecided (6%). Ouch.

So, in the end, what can be said about where Puerto Rico’s race stands? Let’s just say this: In the end, Fortuño, the Republican, is like President Obama, the Democrat. Both are trying to tell voters that things are getting better, and they both have a tough case to make. Fortuño can also dangle the fantasy of statehood, which is still attractive to about 40%-45% of the island.

García Padilla is a lot like Romney. Not the greatest of candidates. But just like Romney, if García Padilla keeps pounding Fortuño’s record, just like Romney is pounding Obama’s, García Padilla (and Romney) just might win. But polls are polls, and who knows what will happen on November 6. What we can guarantee is this: it should make for an intense night, both on the mainland and on the island.

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August was supposed to be a great month for Puerto Rican Governor and pro-statehood Republican Luis Fortuño.

He was supposed to claim victory for changes to Puerto Rico’s constitution. He did not, essentially setting himself up for an unsuccessful re-election bid in November against an opponent who quite frankly is not the strongest of candidates.

Puerto Rican Republican Governor Luis Fortuño

He was supposed to start proclaiming success in his push to turn the Puerto Rican economy, but he can’t. Even after close to four years in office, Fortuño and policies have basically moved the island’s unemployment rate from 13.8 in January, 2009 to 13.7 in July, 2012, after it was as high as 16.6% in May, 2010. During his four years as governor, the Fortuño administration has seen the following happen to the island:

January, 2009: Puerto Rico had a labor force of 1,349,246 people. 1,163,674 people were employed. 185,572 people were unemployed. That would be a 13.8% unemployment rate.

July, 2012: Puerto Rico now has a labor force of 1,267,154 people. 1,093,903 people are employed. 173,251 people are unemployed. The overall unemployment rate is now at 13.7%.

Therefore, since Fortuño took office in 2009, Puerto Rico has seen a 7% decrease in its labor force (loss of about 82,000  people) and a 6% decrease in the number of employed people (a total loss of 80,000 jobs). Where are these people going? Very likely to places like Florida. In fact, they are going to Florida in growing numbers, as the latest US Census can confirm:

And that is where the Mitt Romney campaign comes in.

Unless you are totally shut off from the national election, to paraphrase the late Tim Russert: FLORIDA, FLORIDA, FLORIDA. Romney 2012 knows fully well that its candidate must make inroads into the Puerto Rican vote in Florida if it even thinks it has a chance of winning. So, being the out-of-touch campaign strategists that they are when it comes to the Latino vote, why not promote Fortuño?

Here is the problem with that. Think about it. The Puerto Rican population is migrating from the island to Florida because there are no jobs in Puerto Rico. Who has been at the helm of the worst economic crisis in Puerto Rico since the Great Depression? Luis Fortuño. There is no question that Fortuño has become a polarizing figure in Puerto Rican politics, and to think that his presence would help Romney’s efforts along the Interstate 4 corridor is unrealistic. Yay, the governor who forced me to leave the island is now telling me to vote Republican!

What is so ironic about this is that Fortuño has become a lot like President Obama, in the fact that both of them have to answer to stagnant economies and no true net changes in employment. Fortuño is quick to blame the previous administration of the opposing party, just like President Obama. But while Romney 2012 has no problem criticizing the President’s policies, it has always perplexed me why he would even roll out Fortuño. Hey, everyone, let’s celebrate the leader who has not created jobs for his own people and has seen people leave for better opportunities in the United States! Let’s hear for the guy who put a lot into pushing for changes to the Puerto Rican constitution, only to lose because people in Puerto Rico know how to Facebook and Twitter with the best of them! Right now, Luis Fortuño is damaged political goods, and his presence in Tampa will do nothing to move the needle with I-4 Puerto Ricans.

But I guess this is all about a deal. Fortuño has already assured anyone and everyone that Romney has promised the governor that if Puerto Rico were to vote for statehood in its upcoming November plebiscite (and that is one BIG IF), Fortuño were to win his re-election (another BIG IF) and if Romney were to become President Romney (a tossup IF), Romney would formally recognize the island’s desire to become the 51st state of the Union. That is the deal, and the unknowing US online media who has no clue about the complexities of Puerto Rico’s status (for example, does it even know that Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi—the Fortuño administration’s Resident Commissioner in Washington and the governor’s Number 2 guy on the ticket—is a pro-statehood Democrat who has distanced himself from both Romney and Fortuño?) eats up this whole public relations charade.

So instead of actually exploring Fortuño’s record and his growing unpopularity on the island, we get comments of how much fun Puerto Ricans love to party from Ann Romney and how Fortuño represents the new Latino Conservative (the same Latino Conservative who got billions in federal stimulus money to actually improve the situation on the island somewhat). Instead of stories that speak of a Puerto Rico that continues to see a rise in crime and a rise in income inequality, we get the shouts of “¡Buenas noches, Puerto Rico!” in Tampa. Forget the issues and the direction Puerto Rico is heading. This is all about getting the holy grail of statehood and it is also about what Fortuño will do and where he will go AFTER he loses in November.

From his speech in Tampa this week, we get a different view of a Puerto Rico from Fortuño. Cut taxes! Keep government small! Double-digit unemployment! People leaving the island I lead! Oh, wait…

In the end, all the Puerto Rican pride in the world could not hide the fact that the Romney campaign is trying to pander to Puerto Rican voters in Florida and the US every time it rolls out Fortuño as an example of success (and yes, we know, pandering to Latinos has become a tactic of both the GOP and the Democrats). As for Fortuño? It is clear that this is all about political opportunism and partisan loyalty. By not being truthful about what is really going in Puerto Rico and becoming “proof” that the GOP has new Latino stars, he is once again disrespecting and ignoring the people he serves. We thought he learned that lesson two weeks ago when he suffered a stunning defeat in the polls.

You would think he would be more humble about it. Guess not, since in a few months Luis Fortuño will be out looking for a new job.

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There is reality and then there is Macondo, the fictional town of irrationality made so memorable by the writings of Gabriel García Márquez. Tonight, GOP nominee Mitt Romney is living in Macondo, after trouncing his opponents to gain 20 delegates in the Puerto Rico’s GOP primary.

Source: CNN Politics

Romney, who needed a victory and a resounding one, is clearly out of of touch if he considers that his Puerto Rico win is a feather in his elusive Don Quijote quest to win a serious share of the US Latino vote in the national presidential elections. (The former Massachusetts governor gained more than 80% of the island’s GOP vote, which totaled a bit over 100,000, a much lower expectation than the estimated 300,000 that was previously predicted, as if there are 300,000 active Republicans living in Puerto Rico.)

Yet, if you asked Romney tonight, he sounded decisive and confident. He would tell you that yes, he has found the key to gaining the US Latino vote and moving it into the GOP column. Listen to this one from The New York Times:

“Those people who think Latinos won’t vote for a Republican need to talk to the people of Puerto Rico,” Mr. Romney said, speaking at an evening rally [in Illinois]. “I intend to get Latino voters to vote Republican and take back the White House.”

Yes, Romney is living in Macondo.

Here is why:

  • This entire GOP primary was critical for pro-statehood and Republican governor Luis Fortuño to bring the issue of the island’s political status into the limelight. Fortuño had publicly endorsed Romney and unlike other mainland governors, Fortuño worked hard the last few days, so much so that even his social media sites were all Romney all the time. The Friday night rally for Romney was classic Puerto Rican politics, where such an event would be seen as over the top on the mainland. Did Fortuño, who is very unpopular on the island and is facing an extremely tough re-election bid, achieve his goal? Sure thing. He got Romney the 20 delegates. Luis came through for Mitt. What will Mitt do for Luis in return?
  • How can the Romney campaign seriously put the Puerto Rican victory within the context of gaining more of the US Latino vote? First, Puerto Rico, even though it holds primaries, cannot participate in a national election for president. Second, add Fortuño’s establishment muscle (even though the turnout was low), Romney’s pledge to honor the island’s political status plebiscite if he were to become President, and most importantly, Rick Santorum’s English Only fail, and no wonder Romney won easily. Yet, if the Romney campaign is going to make this their “proof” that he can increase the US Latino vote, none of these primary votes from Puerto Rico wouldn’t even count. The campaign is painting the US Latino vote with a brush that couldn’t even produce a painting even if it painted itself with a paint by numbers set. Hence, Romney is living in Macondo.
  • Romney’s logic is flawed. Isn’t it safe to say that almost EVERYONE in Puerto Rico is of Latino origin? Hell, Romney could proudly proclaim the same thing about winning the key Guamanian vote as well, since he also took the GOP primary in Guam last week. Seems like Romney could be president of all US colonial territories. He’s winning those votes.
  • Romney played the “I love Puerto Rico” card to win the primary (because Santorum’s English Only comments just were disastrous to Puerto Rican voters), but we find it hard to believe that Romney will now be changing his stances on immigration, stopping his association with Anti-Immigration King Kris Kobach, and dropping his opposition to the Dream Act (which is highly popular with US Latino voters). We also doubt that even though Romney was telling Puerto Rican voters that it’s cool by him that they speak as much Spanish as they want, official English (a position he supports) be damned, Romney will wake up and realize that the US Latino is complex, diverse (how would Romney play in California in a national election?), and quite frankly, generally pissed at the GOP’s rhetoric. Does Romney now think that a primary that gets him 20 delegates and 20 delegates only will prove to the world that he can begin to chip away at the GOP’s dismally low approval ratings amongst US Latino voters?

The fact is simple: Fortuño worked the primary hard because having Romney in the White House would give Fortuño a better chance of putting a 51st star on the US flag. But this is no slam dunk for Fortuño, who might not even win his own election in November as the incumbent, nor is it one for Romney, who has become so desperate in “proving” that he can gain more than 14% of the US Latino vote, he would campaign in Macondo, where reality is an illusion and illusions only go so far.

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Before we get to a new poll published by the Vocero that flips the issues (yet again) of Puerto Rico’s political identity and colonial relationship with the United States, which has essentially owned the island since 1898 (yes, the US Army landed on the shores of Puerto Rico to win a war against Spain), you need to know a few things:

  • Politics in Puerto Rico are, plain and simple, just messed up right now. Try to stay with me here. You have an unpopular Republican and pro-statehood Governor (Luis Fortuño) who has been unable to turn the island’s economy around in his four years in office because the previous administration screwed it up too (BIG TIME), but still has a decent shot at re-election because the guy he is running against (Alejandro García Padilla) is well, not exciting, and basically has issues himself (you will see why  later in this post). Then you have other parties (like the group that wants independence) trying to stay relevant in the age of social media and 24/7 news cycles.

Puerto Rican Governor Luis Fortuño

  • Another way to look at it is like this: Fortuño is to Barack Obama (considering Puerto Rico took billions of dollars of federal stimulus money) as what García Padilla is to Mitt Romney (going after the incumbent in a clunky way). But the fact is that Fortuño is a Republican and García Padilla is a Democrat. Then imagine if the United States were holding a vote about what type of government they would like to become the very same day that they are voting for President. THAT is Puerto Rico this year, where gubernatorial candidates are not only running against each other, but their respective parties and others (the pro-statehood PNP and the pro-commonwealth-status quo-enhanced commonwealth-whatever PPD, and the pro-independence PIP) are also pushing a vote for Puerto Rico’s political status issue, an issue that has dominated Puerto Rican politics like the elephant in the room for decades.

Alejandro García Padilla

  • And remember, NO MATTER what the Puerto Rican people decide in terms of political status, the CRAZY THING is that the damn vote is non-binding, which means the US Congress will still have to take action on the will of their own citizens and not even take the vote into account (another complication). Now, Fortuño, who endorsed Romney, is banking on Romney becoming President so that if Fortuño wins re-election and the political status vote favors statehood, Fortuño will have a friend in the White House to push statehood for Puerto Rico. And García Padilla is of course pulling for Obama to win, but Obama has already gone on record last year to say that if the status plebiscite is close and there is not an overwhelming majority for one option, Congress won’t act.
  • So basically, Puerto Rico is trying to put this whole political status question behind them (it has been going on for like decades since the 60s) so that the island can move forward and actually achieve progress economically, socially, and politically. But since we tried to explain all the craziness that is going on right now, you can see how critical the 2012 elections are for the island.

Which brings us to the Vocero poll. The poll asked the following question of Puerto Ricans: If the plebiscite were held today, what would you vote for: statehood, enhanced commonwealth or independence?

The results reported by the newspaper conclude the following: 41% for statehood, 37% for enhanced commonwealth, 4% for independence, 4% wouldn’t vote and 14% are undecided. So, at halftime, we have a tie, people, yet again! Why does that not surprise us since all the previous plebiscites never showed a clear majority (and also never got acted upon, so why are we discussing this again?)

What is so surprising about this poll has to the do with the issue of enhanced commonwealth. In 2008, this idea of an enhanced commonwealth that would define a more clearer non-colonial and non-territorial relationship with the United States was the status option that the PPD party was promoting. But when the PPD lost to Fortuño and the PNP, a push from the traditionalists of the PPD who favored to maintain the “status quo” began, culminating in García Padilla pushing for it as well. All of a sudden, enhanced commonwealth was no longer popular in 2010 as it was in 2008. In fact, that option of enhanced commonwealth was polled at 6% while the status quo was at 39% and was actually the top choice over statehood by 4%. Now, all that is out the window and García Padilla, the guy everyone in the PPD is banking on beating Fortuño, looks like the guy who placed the wrong bet on the wrong status option. Oops. Our guess is that he will react quickly to this revelation. Or will he? Remember when we said he was like Romney?

Other poll findings are just as interesting. Here are some of our favorites:

  • There is more statehood support outside the San Juan metro area (44%) than there is in the San Juan metro area (35%).
  • Voters 18-49 are choosing statehood over enhanced commonwealth 44%-34%.
  • 11% of people who say they are PPD would vote for statehood while 11% who say they are PNP would vote for enhanced commonwealth. Huh?
  • 18% of the San Juan metro area is undecided while 17% of those 35-49 are undecided as well.

This has only just begun. Looks like there will be another close vote and who knows where Congress will go with this. Status becomes the issue while the island does not progress. Classic Puerto Rican Politics 101.

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A strange Puerto Rican political weekend culminated with a video of pro-statehood and Republican Governor Luis Fortuño showing his bromance GOP love to Mitt Romney in Florida. In case you haven’t seen the video, here it is:

This blog has written a lot about the weird GOP VP adoration with Fortuño, especially since this self-proclaimed lover of Ronaldo Reagan right now couldn’t even vote in a presidential election. And now that this Romney endorsement is making the rounds of the mainstream US media (one that is clueless about the island’s politics and issues), we will be very clear about it:

Luis Fortuño should be endorsing President Obama and not Romney, because without the policies of the Obama administration, Fortuño would have no political life in a tough re-election year for Puerto Rican governor.

Let’s look at the facts:

Fortuño on the Affordable Care Act (also known as OBAMACARE)

Fortuño on The Recovery Act (TARP, the Stimulus Bill)

  • For someone who is into free enterprise and against government funding of projects, Fortuño had no problem accepting federal stimulus dollars (source: Recovery.gov). According to official US government records, Puerto Rico under the Fortuño administration received close to $2.7 billion (yes, BILLION) between February 2009 and September 2011. ¡Gracias, Presidente Obama!

  • The Associated Press reported that Fortuño thanked Vice President Joe Biden for “ensuring that all Puerto Ricans benefit from the federal stimulus, and thanked him for the help from the federal government to put Puerto Rico on the path to economic recovery” Like with the health-care law, Fortuño’s rhetoric on the Recovery Act directly counters Romney’s current rhetoric (which is different from Romney’s own original support of it.)
  • Yet, when discussing the Puerto Rican “miracle” he has spearheaded, Fortuño makes no mention of what the Obama administration has done for Puerto Rico. In front of conservatives, he is the Small Government Guy, but when he needs money, he takes billions of dollars in stimulus money? What is the real story, Governor? It is clear that your public relations push is Fox-laced.
But maybe the Governor IS like Romney. Because, as Forbes magazine reports, Fortuño can’t decide what he is promising Puerto Rican taxpayers: tax cuts or tax increases? How do you say Flip Flop in Spanish? It is clear to us that the Fortuño endorsement of Romney is based on just one thing: a veiled fantasy of a Puerto Rico becoming the 51st state of the Union. Once again, status becomes the issue when in fact Fortuño should be thanking President Obama for saving his political future.

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