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December 6, 2002
Copyright © 2002 PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved. 
What Most Adds To Governor Calderon’s Declining Reelection Numbers?

Political junkies take notice!

A Herald straw poll shows Carlos Pesquera beating Gov. Sila Calderon in the next election, while Jorge Santini is even with her.

Those Puerto Rico Herald readers residing in Puerto Rico who voted in last week’s Hot Button Issue Poll predicted that Carlos Pesquera, the New Progressive Party (NPP) President, would be the next Governor of Puerto Rico. He scored eight percentage points ahead of both Sila Calderon, the incumbent Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Governor, and Jorge Santini, the current NPP Mayor of San Juan, who ended in a dead heat for second place. Pedro Rossello (NPP) and Carlos Romero Barcelo, (NPP) who headed the previous island administration as Governor and Resident Commissioner respectively, tied for last place, each with eight percent of the poll vote. The Herald poll mirrored a recent preference poll, conducted on the island by Puerto Rico researcher Pablo Ramos, showing Pesquera beating Calderon by 4 percentage points.

Among mainland readers, both Pesquera and Santini beat Calderon by 19 and 7 percentage points respectively. Pedro Rossello did better on the mainland than on the island, with poll participants placing him just 3 percentage points behind Calderon. Carlos Romero Barcelo is in last place, some 5 points behind his closest competitor. Taken together, by a margin of 3 to 1, mainland and island readers presently think that Governor Sila Calderon will not return to La Forteleza in 2004. They also conclude that Carlos Pesquera and Jorge Santini are both viable NPP candidates and that the silence about 2004 manifested by Pedro Rossello and Carlos Romero Barcelo is well advised.

Ironically, only two years into her term, respondents saw Governor Calderon as less desirable than Carlos Pesquera, the man she beat in the last election, but things could change. The controversial issue of Vieques dominated the first two years of her term. Her rhetoric on the Navy’s use of its training ground off the coast of Puerto Rico angered both conservatives in the U.S. Congress and avid Statehooders -- who considered her un-American -- and the left wing of her party and Independentistas -- who accused her of not doing enough to force the Navy off the island immediately. By 2004 Vieques will be resolved so she likely will have scoured off most of the political mud that dirtied her at Camp Garcia.

Gov. Calderon’s laser-like attention to the issue of political corruption was focused as long as it was NPP former officials being questioned and handcuffed, but it became myopic when PDP election scandals were brought to light. Her scheme to end corruption by having the government pay for all island and municipal campaigns was shelved when the price tag was revealed. Her big plans to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the promulgation of Puerto Rico’s constitution became divisive and failed to rally Puerto Ricans around her concept of Commonwealth.

Likewise, Gov. Calderon’s forays off the island were controversial. Her involvement in mainland politics seemed inappropriate to many and expensive to all. Her attempt to project Puerto Rico as an autonomist state overseas — most recently in the Dominican Republic — became a public embarrassment when rebuffed by heads-of-state, reportedly at the urging of the U.S. State Department. Her administration has so far failed to convince the U.S. Congress to provide federal tax incentives for new investment on the island — a cornerstone of her campaign platform -- and she has inaugurated very few new infrastructure projects in Puerto Rico. Most of her ribbon cutting was for projects started during the administration of her predecessor, many shepherded by her main rival, Carlos Pesquera.

We can be sure, however, that Sila Calderon’s advisors are cognizant of her slipping electability and are brewing up correctives for the remainder of her term in office. Typically, Puerto Rican governors pull out all the stops on projects in their third year so that the glow of public appreciation will illuminate the campaign trail in the fourth. Undoubtedly, she will "tend to her knitting" in this regard but almost surely she will succumb to partisanship to protect her vision of the Commonwealth. Aware that she cannot persuade the U.S. Congress to bestow political autonomy on Puerto Rico, she will continue to do whatever she can to block any movement towards a congressionally approved process of self-determination leading to a permanent political status for the island.

This week’s Hot button Issue poll asks Herald readers to select the issue that has most contributed to Governor Calderon’s growing lack of appeal to prospective voters.

This Week's Question:
What Most Adds To Governor Calderon’s Declining Reelection Numbers?

US . Residents
. PR
Her handling of Vieques 17%
27% Her island agenda 18%
12% Her mainland politicking 17%
20% Her international pretensions 26%
29% Her vision of enhanced Commonwealth status 22%


.To submit your idea for a future PR Herald poll question or "Hot Button" issue, please click here.

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