Recent gains by presidential candidate Mitt Romney in Florida are prompting some analysts to question whether either campaign should continue to pour resources into the state during the final weeks of the campaign. Florida, the thinking goes, has moved into the Republican column, while President Obama’s relative strength elsewhere makes the state less important for a Democratic victory.
It appears at this time that a shift in Hispanic support has contributed toward Mr. Romney’s favorability ratings, and it is indisputable that the former governor from Massachusetts has cultivated this support, particularly within the Puerto Rican community. Romney’s Puerto Rican platform includes strong support for Puerto Rican statehood.
As we reported earlier, Mitt Romney has campaigned in Florida with Puerto Rican Governor Luis Fortuño, a member of the Puerto Rico’s pro-statehood New Progressive Party (NPP). Governor Fortuño’s wife, Luce Vela, introduced Ann Romney at the Republican convention in Tampa. In terms of his platform, the Romney web site explicitly endorses statehood for Puerto Rico if a simple majority of 50% plus one voter selects this option in the upcoming plebiscite vote on Election Day.
Republican support for Puerto Rican statehood is nothing new. Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Gerald Ford all endorsed it. More recently, during consideration of 2010 federal legislation to provide for a Puerto Rican plebiscite, Republican political consultant Alex Castellanos wrote the following words on the subject, which remain relevant today:
“At a moment when the GOP is struggling to find its footing with Hispanic voters, [the Puerto Rico Democracy Act] is politically important. It writes into law what Republicans have etched in our hearts: that America is for all Americans. Republicans who are afraid that Puerto Rico might send only Democrats to Congress might check their concerns with the island’s governor, Luis Fortuño, a speaker at the 2008 GOP convention. Fortuño is a not only a Reagan conservative who has been elected island-wide twice in the last five years — in 2008, he was elected by 225,000 votes, the biggest margin of electoral victory in 44 years. While mainland Republicans struggled in ’08, the GOP bucked the tide in Puerto Rico, with victories that included the governor’s seat, president of the Senate, speaker of the House, Senate majority leader, mayor of San Juan, and a majority of mayors in the 78 municipalities, as well as the majority of state legislators throughout the island. These results are no surprise. Polls tell us that 78 percent of the island’s residents are pro-life; 86 percent say prayer should be allowed in schools; 75 percent say displaying the Ten Commandments on government property should be allowed; a majority supports vouchers for private schools. An overwhelming majority of Puerto Rican citizens embrace socially conservative values.
At heart, however, the Puerto Rico Democracy Act is about something bigger than partisan politics. It promotes an ideal supported by the leadership of both parties, from Majority Leader Steny Hoyer to Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence. It confirms that the principles of democracy, inclusiveness, and self-determination belong to all U.S. citizens. History demonstrates that when America includes those who haven’t been included before, everyone benefits. Republicans have historically fought for democracy and self-determination abroad; we can defend them no less at home. This Thursday we have an opportunity to put our votes where our principles are. I hope Republicans take advantage of it.