Kerry Surges! The Question Is, Where Does He Stand On Puerto Rico?
The rallies, telephone banks, radio/TV ads had ceased and, by 10PM local time on February 3rd, the seven remaining Democratic candidates for President had digested the results of the "mini-Super Tuesday" primary voting, wherein 269 delegates to the Democratic national convention had been in play.
To win the nomination, a candidate must win the support of 2,162 of the 4,322 convention delegates convening next July in Boston. Typically, the winning candidate has the nomination sewed-up well before the convention opens its doors.
Senator John Kerry won five of the races, Missouri - the largest in delegate strength - by 50% of the vote. He came in second to Senator John Edwards in South Carolina and in third place behind winner Wesley Clark and runner-up John Edwards in Oklahoma. Kerry was also victorious in Arizona, Delaware, New Mexico and North Dakota.
As the candidate "spin" began, Edwards gloated over his resounding victory in South Carolina, dubbing himself as the Democrat best suited to go toe-to-toe with the incumbent President, George W. Bush, a Texan.
Retired General Wesley Clark won the Oklahoma primary by a whisker over Edwards, but by enough to give his campaign life for the longer fight in the upcoming primaries. Vermonts former Governor, Howard Dean, who did not campaign in any of Tuesdays primary states, did no better than 3rd in five races, 4th in Oklahoma and 5th in South Carolina. The big looser of the day was Senator Joseph Lieberman, who was in last place in all states except Delaware, where he barely managed a second place finish over Edwards. His poor showing on Tuesday, added to dismal results in New Hampshire the week before, convinced him to retire from the primary battle for good.
Wednesday morning headlines across the country heralded the Kerry victory. "Kerry Wins Big in Five States," bannered the Washington Post. "Kerry Consolidates his Lead," reported El Nuevo Dia of San Juan. Pundits opined that Kerrys momentum would be hard for the other candidates to overcome, as the race moved into the remaining primary states.
The Herald Hot Button reader poll continues to show majority support for General Clark, presumably for his strong support for a reform of the U.S. Puerto Rico relationship. Last weeks polling closed with Clark holding a four percentage point lead over the national front runner, John Kerry. The Generals statement, entitled "Fulfilling Americas Promise to the People of Puerto Rico," calls for equity for Puerto Ricans in all federal programs and a political status delivering sovereignty for the island and full democratic rights for its inhabitants.
The Kerry campaign, on the other hand, has put out conflicting statements on the candidates position on Puerto Rico. Last week, Manuel Ortiz, one of Kerry's political advisors, told reporters that the Senator would soon issue a comprehensive policy position on Puerto Rico. Then, Luis Navarro, a spokesperson for Hispanic Affairs in the Kerry Campaign, added that the candidate supported a self-determination process for the island that would lead to a result that was "neither colonial nor territorial."
Subsequently, the campaign denied that there was to be anything new on Puerto Rico and referred reporters to the "John Kerry for President" website. There, under the heading, "Puerto Rico and Latin America," the following statement appears, "John Kerry supports self-determination for Puerto Rico and has proposed a referendum that allows the people of Puerto Rico to vote on statehood, independence or continued status as a commonwealth."
The Herald queried Kerry press spokesman, Adam Abrams, as to the meaning of "Commonwealth" in the context of the statement. Our reporter wished to know if it referred only to the "status quo," territorial Commonwealth, or if it allowed for the "enhanced Commonwealth" desired by most members of the Popular Democratic Party (PDP). By press time, no clarification on this point had been received from the Kerry campaign.
Calls to the Dean and Edwards campaigns for clarification on candidate positions on Puerto Rico self-determination likewise produced no response.
Tuesdays primary results netted 177 delegate votes for Kerry, 84 for Edwards, 50 for Clark and 23 for Dean. Al Sharptons paltry 2 votes in South Carolina was a disappointment for the candidate, who had hoped to do much better in a state wherein some 50% of registered Democrats are African Americans. His campaign has virtually no hope of gaining momentum, although he and Rep. Dennis Kucinich who failed to win a single delegate remain in the race for the moment.
The primary schedule now moves to caucuses in Michigan and Washington State to be held tomorrow, wherein 204 delegates are in play, and on Sunday in Maine with its 24 convention delegates up for grabs. Next Tuesday, primaries in Tennessee and Virginia offer 151 delegates to be distributed among the candidates, both states being a part of General Clarks and Senator Edwards "Southern Strategy." This concept postulates that, in order to beat George W. Bush in November, the Democrats must carry some southern states and that these two, as southerners, are in the best position to do so.
Now that the race for the Democratic nomination has been reduced to four candidates with any chance of winning it, we offer them for your preference at this point in the campaign.