We still hear the claim that Puerto Rico cannot become a state because statehood for the territory would be an advantage for Democrats. A new article from Jose Fuentes points out that, in fact, “Republicans have won and are winning in Puerto Rico, so the idea of statehood for the island is actually an opportunity for Republicans.”

Fuentes reminds us that Rep. Jennifer Gonzalez-Colon, a conservative Republican, beat current Governor Pedro Pierluisi, a Democrat, in the recent primary election for Governor of Puerto Rico. He goes on to note that “Republicans have been elected by Puerto Rico’s voters to represent them in Congress 12 out of the last 20 years.”

An opportunity

People living in the states have often made up their minds on their party alignment before they hear about candidates for offices in their states. They may be Republicans because their parents always voted Republican, or vote a straight Democratic ticket because they live in a Democratic neighborhood.

Voters in Puerto Rico may identify as Republicans or Democrats, but these are not the most important parties on the Island. Puerto Rican politics centers on the question of status. Voters choose the statehood party, the commonwealth party, or the Independence Party, not the Democratic or Republican Party.  Both Rep. Jennifer Gonzalez-Colon and Governor Pedro Pierluisi are stalwarts of the statehood party, even though one is a Republican and one is a Democrat.

In the state of Puerto Rico, U.S. politicians will have millions of voters who have not yet made up their minds on the main parties. Instead of trying to change people from red to blue or blue to red, they will have the opportunity to present their ideas to an entirely new group of voters.

Polling in Puerto Rico and of Puerto Ricans in the states consistently shows that this population is more conservative than average. To the extent that the Republican Party can show that their views and priorities align with those of Puerto Rican voters, they may be able to sway Puerto Rico to vote Republican.

At the very least, Puerto Rico will be a purple state.

How to miss that opportunity

While the majority of voters in Puerto Rico are neither Republican nor Democratize, the majority want statehood. They care about Puerto Rico’s status.



A Republican candidate who says that Puerto Rico’s status is unimportant, that Puerto Rico would definitely be a blue state, or that Puerto Rico should remain a territory — that Republican would be shooting himself in the foot. Republican candidates who boldly support statehood for Puerto Rico will gain votes, and possibly help create another red state.

The current Republican Party platform calls for statehood for Puerto Rico. Republican candidates should be true to that position. It’s the right thing to do — and could benefit them and their party.



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