[lg policy] Santorum's Gaffe May Cost Him in Puerto Rico: But the hardline English-language position may help in future contests

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Tue Mar 20 14:36:05 UTC 2012

Santorum's Gaffe May Cost Him in Puerto Rico: But the hardline
English-language position may help in future contests

Rebekah Metzler U.S. News & World Report

March 19, 2012

Puerto Ricans don't get to vote for president in the fall, but they do
have the opportunity to help pick the GOP presidential nominee on
Sunday. With a dearth of polling available and mixed messages coming
from the pair of top candidates, the outcome of the primary remains a
wild card.

Comments by former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum implying he would
support statehood for the commonwealth only if it agreed to make
English the official language have caused the biggest stir in the
contest. Puerto Ricans will decide whether or not they would like to
pursue statehood in a fall referendum but will only be granted the
status if approved by Congress.

"It was poorly received in Puerto Rico because Puerto Ricans are very
proud of having the special status, they're very proud of being Puerto
Rican, they're very proud of the Spanish language and culture and
history," says Steffen Schmidt, political analyst for CNN Espanol and
professor at Iowa State University.

Santorum has subsequently tried to clarify that he only meant Puerto
Ricans would have to be fluent in English, not officially designate it
as the region's only official language. But his equivocations are
unlikely to mitigate any damage he caused with voters, Schmidt says.

"For Puerto Rico, probably, it was not a great move on the part of
Santorum whether it was deliberate or not," he says.
Schmidt also says the gaffe makes the endorsement by Republican Gov.
Luis Fortuno of Mitt Romney all the more meaningful.
"It just gives the ... endorsement of Mitt Romney more juice and makes
it a more robust endorsement," he says.

The former Massachusetts governor has featured the Puerto Rican
governor in a Spanish-language television advertisement there. And
Romney's also said he would not "as a prerequisite for statehood
require that the people of Puerto Rico cease using Spanish," according
to a campaign spokeswoman. However, the Santorum controversy may turn
into a very shrewd move when the GOP race shifts back to the mainland.

"Blow off the 20 something delegates from Puerto Rico, sure. But send
that powerful message of English as the official language of the
United States, which conservatives love," Schmidt says. "It's a great
selling point to Republican conservatives for Santorum in the whole
rest of the country."

Romney himself is confronting a mini-gaffe as well, after he sponsored
ads in other states knocking Santorum for voting to approve now
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor for a lesser court when he
served in the Senate. Sotomayor's parents are Puerto Rican and she's
viewed favorably there.

"I don't think that is going to help Romney in Puerto Rico," Schmidt
says. "On the other hand, Puerto Rico is a Democratic state it's not a
Republican state so frankly, you know the Republicans in Puerto Rico
will probably vote for Mitt Romney more than Santorum I'm guessing."

As has been the case throughout the see-saw Republican contest,
Schmidt says the real story is that places like Puerto Rico are
getting so much attention. "That's the big story. It's sort of
unbelievable that we have come down to Pacific territories and Puerto
Rico as really important factors," he says. And he also points out
that the competitions in those areas - and how the candidates carry
themselves there - will have a larger impact on the race.

"It'll be very interesting to watch but the bigger story of it is
actually the fact that we're going to see all of this reverberate with
Latino voters in other states that are still coming up," Schmidt says,
adding that this GOP field has a poor record when it comes to issues
Latinos care most about.

"Even Hispanic Republican voters would like to see a new immigration
law and would like to see the DREAM Act pass," he says, referring to
legislation that would create a path to citizenship for children of
illegal immigrants if they attend a four year college or join the U.S.
Military. "And the Republicans just have a terrible, terrible position
on those issues when it comes to that community."

Santorum and Romney are the only candidates to have campaigned in
Puerto Rico, with rivals former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas
Rep. Ron Paul opting to stump in other upcoming primary states,
including Illinois and Louisiana.


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