by Byron York, Washington Examiner (excerpts)
On Wednesday, the Romney campaign's political director, Rich Beeson, sent out a message touting Mitt Romney's latest delegate pickups. Yes, Rick Santorum won Alabama, Mississippi, and Kansas, Beeson said, but "Governor Romney's wins over the same period in Wyoming, the Northern Marianas, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Hawaii, and American Samoa have helped expand his delegate lead, pushing closer to the nomination."
Indeed, in recent contests, it has been Romney's wins in the island territories -- Marianas, Guam, Samoa, Virgin Islands -- that gave Romney the edge in delegates. And on Sunday comes the primary in Puerto Rico. It's possible that if Romney finally reaches the 1,144 delegates needed to clinch the Republican nomination, his delegate margin of victory will have come from the islands….
It's not just a Republican thing; the Democratic party also awards delegates to the islands. And usually a presidential candidate wins by such a large delegate margin that the islands don't make any difference. But maybe not this time.
It's not that the islands, or at least most of them, are so big that their voices simply must be heard. From an Associated Press account of the March 13 caucuses in American Samoa: "About 70 Republicans in the U.S. territory located 2,300 miles south of Hawaii met in caucus Tuesday. The six delegates selected at the meeting and three superdelegates to the Republican National Convention all said they would support Romney."
Just by themselves, those nine delegates, selected by a grand total of 70 participating Republicans, accounted for Romney's entire delegate lead over Santorum in the March 13 contests.
In the Virgin Islands, it appears Ron Paul actually edged Romney, 112 votes to 101 votes, but because of complex rules of delegate allocation, Romney walked away with seven delegates to Paul's one.
In Guam, Romney picked up nine delegates when he won unanimously, with a total of 215 votes.
The big prize, at least in the number of votes, was the Northern Marianas, where Romney won another nine delegates on the strength of 740 votes. "The Northern Mariana Islands may be far away from the mainland, but one of the great things about our democracy is that every voice has a chance to be heard in selecting a presidential candidate," Romney said in a victory statement.
If those results trouble any Republicans, they shouldn't blame Romney. He's just playing by the party rules. And playing smart, sending Romney's son Matt to campaign in the Northern Marianas and in Guam just before the caucuses. The 18-0 delegate pickup in those two places alone eclipsed Romney's delegate margin of victory in Michigan and Ohio combined, where more than two million votes were cast….
"The residents of the islands are U.S. citizens who are active and engaged members of the RNC," a committee spokesman says, "and part of the primary process that will produce the next president of the United States."
The RNC's statement doesn't explain why the policy is what it is, but of course there are political reasons. For example, Sunday's Puerto Rico primary will be closely watched by Puerto Ricans in the United States -- in places like the I-4 corridor in the critical swing state of Florida, which Republicans need to win in November. Island delegates have also played key roles in electing RNC leadership; recent chairman Michael Steele owed his victory to island support….
read … York: Why do islands play key role in GOP race?
NOTE: Part of the thinking in scheduling the Hawaii GOP Presidential Caucus is that the second Tues in March lines up with a week and a half of caucus, convention and primary dates in Alaska and all of the territories. Apparently the strategy has paid off and we’ve got the attention of politicos in Washington DC. --AW
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