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Rick Santorum Tells Puerto Ricans To Speak English If They Want Statehood, So Mitt Romney Will Win Puerto Rico

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Reuters has a story today about Rick Santorum's campaign swing to Puerto Rico, whose upcoming Sunday primary has 23 20 delegates at stake. [Note: Only 20 of PR's 23 delegates are bound during the primary.] On that trip, Santorum suggested that if Puerto Rico wanted to become a state, it would have to adopt English as its official language. So, go ahead and add the lion's share of those delegates to Romney's count. With zero precincts reporting, I can now call Puerto Rico for Mitt Romney!

Per Reuters:

In an interview with El Vocero newspaper, Santorum said he supported Puerto Ricans' right to self-determination regarding the island's political status.

"We need to work together and determine what type of relationship we want to develop," he told the newspaper.

But Santorum said he did not support a state in which English was not the primary language.

"Like any other state, there has to be compliance with this and any other federal law," Santorum said. "And that is that English has to be the principal language. There are other states with more than one language such as Hawaii but to be a state of the United States, English has to be the principal language."

But as Reuters goes on to point out, "the U.S. Constitution does not designate an official language" and there is no extant legal "requirement that a territory adopt English as its primary language in order to become a state," so it's hard to say what "compliance" issue exists, other than Rick Santorum just really, really wanting them to speak English.

In truth, Romney more or less wrapped up the Puerto Rico primary months ago, when he won the endorsement of Gov. Luis G. Fortuño. And his position on statehood, which he offered at the Hispanic Leadership Network (HLN) conference in January, is a key reason why he won that endorsement:

"I'm looking forward to the time when the people of Puerto Rico make their decision about becoming a state," he said as the audience cheered. "Wow, we've got some friends here.

"I think it's in November you're having a referendum and I expect the people of Puerto Rico will decide that they want to become a state and I can tell you that I will work with [Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuño] to make sure that if that vote comes out in favor of statehood, that we will go through the process in Washington to provide statehood to Puerto Rico."

As ABC News' Matthew Jaffe reported at the time, Romney's enthusiasm for Puerto Rican statehood was much greater at the HLN conference than it had been at that week's Univision debate. But Romney took advantage of Newt Gingrich's muddled answer at the HLN conference to win those cheers. As Jaffe goes on to note, the state of Florida was a key factor for Romney:

Statehood is a controversial issue among Puerto Ricans and not all support the idea. Others believe it should become independent or remain a commonwealth. But many Puerto Rican voters in the United States back statehood, including many who live in Florida. Puerto Rican voters are the second-largest Latino voting bloc in the Sunshine State, with about 420,000 living here, heavily concentrated around the crucial I-4 corridor in central Florida. And Puerto Ricans tend to be a swing constituency, backing Obama in 2008 and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., in 2010, meaning they could play a critical role in the state's Jan. 31 primary and in the general election later.

By contrast, Rick Santorum tends to favor not wavering on his policy principles over winning popularity contests, a quality that led the National Review's Quin Hilyer to dub him the "un-politician" after watching him debate in Florida:

It strikes me that Rick Santorum is about the most determinedly anti-political top-level politician I've ever witnessed. No matter what state he is debating in, he refuses to find some wiggle room on issues where his position is at odds with a deeply held local position. For instance, tonight he has made zero attempt to provide any sops at all to the majority of Floridians who opposed drilling in the eastern Gulf -- not even any verbal nods to the idea that of course it is important to keep beaches clean, etcetera.

Santorum just believes that everyone should be in "compliance" with an English language standard, regardless of the fact that no such compliance requirement or enforcement mechanism exists. And he won't pander to satisfy the idiosyncratic attitudes of local constituencies. Romney doesn't have that problem. He'll pander up a storm! And so he'll win Puerto Rico's delegates.

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