With 60 delegates at stake, Puerto Rico’s primary can push Hillary Clinton to the brink of nomination.
Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have both offered plans to solve Puerto Rico’s debt crisis. They’ve invested a roughly equal number of time campaigning there over the past three weeks. But unlike other recent contests where Sanders closed to within striking distance in the final days, leaving the eventual outcome up in the air, few expect the territory to do anything other than deliver a Clinton victory.
There’s just too much history with the Clintons, and too many hurdles for Sanders to overcome in a place where the former secretary of state won by a landslide over Barack Obama in 2008.
While the delegate haul out of Puerto Rico isn’t enough to push Clinton over the threshold necessary to claim the Democratic nomination, the delegate-rich island will get her very close. With 60 pledged delegates at stake, after Puerto Rico’s primary Sunday Clinton will likely be in a position to be declared the nominee after the New Jersey polls close at 8:00 p.m. Tuesday.
Puerto Rico isn’t the only Democratic contest taking place this weekend: Seven pledged delegates are at stake in the U.S. Virgin Islands caucuses on Saturday.
Public polling in the Puerto Rico primary has been essentially nonexistent, so there’s no reliable way to gauge who’s ahead. But as a former senator from the state with the largest population of Puerto Rican-Americans, she has a much greater degree of familiarity with the territory and its residents than Sanders.
“She has a very good grasp of policy issues in Puerto Rico and has for a very long time, particularly when she was a senator from New York,” said Roberto Prats, the chairman of the Puerto Rico Democratic Party and a Clinton supporter. “We have a sizable population of Puerto Ricans in New York and New York state and she was very active in the community as well.”
That’s an advantage against Sanders, whose home state of Vermont has one of the smallest populations of Puerto Rican-Americans in the nation.
“I think the challenge for the Sanders campaign is getting to know the people of Puerto Rico. He’s now being introduced to the Puerto Rico electorate for the first time,” Prats said. “I think the Clintons have had a very longstanding relationship with the people of Puerto Rico.”
Clinton, who’s been endorsed by Gov. Alejandro Padilla, traveled to Puerto Rico for a roundtable event in September and in mid-May former President Bill Clinton traveled there and held several events. Sanders’ visit came a day earlier, and included a conference at the University of Puerto Rico and events in San Juan and Guaynabo.
“She did well [in Puerto Rico] last time, but look, we’re competing there,” Sanders pollster Ben Tulchin said Friday, referring to Clinton’s 67 percent to 31 percent victory over Obama. “Look, there’s quite a number of delegates at play in Puerto Rico and we’re not leaving it uncontested but it’s not California and so he’s not there for two weeks. But look he went there, he took it seriously.”
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