The Macondo Effect: Why Mitt Romney’s Win in Puerto Rico Means Nothing

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.

 

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 around 150,000, 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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