Bernie Sander’s Florida-Puerto Rico primary vote-getting strategy was a bust. Not only did the Democratic presidential candidate not win the Florida primary last March, but he lost by a big margin – 33 percent to 64 percent for Hillary Clinton, now considered the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.
And not only did Sanders lose in Florida but this week he lost by similar margins in Puerto Rico, 38 percent vs. 60 percent. Because the vote was not even close, that means there’s no mistaking where Puerto Rican voter sentiment lies – and it was not with Bernie.
Going forward, national candidates seeking the Puerto Rican vote may need to study the details of this political chapter to better understand what makes the Puerto Rican voter tick.
Sander’s last-minute strategy of hiring local activist-organizer Betsy Franceschini as his campaign’s regional outreach director about a week before the state’s March 15 primary was not the way to go. To be sure, Franceschini was charged with a huge task with very little time – and probably very little money and staff – to complete it.
But that move, coming as late as it did for Florida, was clearly aimed at Puerto Rico, whose Democratic primary was still to come June 5. Almost immediately, Franceschini decamped for the island, where Sanders uncorked a media campaign.
The Sanders’ campaign has never had a problem attracting people to its rallies, and it did so again in Puerto Rico. But Sanders couldn’t pry Puerto Rican voters from Hillary Clinton, who had grabbed 68 percent of island votes back in 2008, knocking Barack Obama off his game.
Not even Sanders’ criticism of the proposed congressional bill known as PROMESA to deal with Puerto Rico’s debt problem helped his cause. (News reports indicate islanders actually support it.)
It seems likely that a chunk of Sanders’ island support may have come from pro-independence voters whose total numbers have greatly diminished over the years – becoming so small, in fact, that the Puerto Rico Independence Party doesn’t count sufficient voters to be designated a minority party, which would give it representation in the island Legislature.
In the end, Clinton’s big Puerto Rico win further weakened Sanders. The island’s 67 delegates, including seven super delegates, helped Clinton clinch the primary delegate tally she needed to become the presumptive nominee.
˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor