Romney wins big in Puerto Rico primary

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By S.Kumar
Date  19 March 2012
Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has swept to a big win in his party's primary in Puerto Rico.

The win bolsters his position as frontrunner in the race to determine who will face Democratic president Barack Obama in the November election.

With the final tally on Sunday (local time), the former Massachusetts governor had more than 83.4 per cent of the vote, according to the State Elections Commission.

Rick Santorum, stood a distant second with 7.7 per cent. Newt Gingrich had 2 per cent, just ahead of Ron Paul's 1.1 per cent.

The US commonwealth in the Caribbean has only 20 delegates at stake for the Republican National Convention in August but has been courted vigorously by contenders in part because the broader US Hispanic vote is seen as crucial to the election outcome.

The contest also focused on an upcoming referendum to decide whether Puerto Ricans want to pursue statehood or remain a self-governing US commonwealth.

In a posting on Twitter on Sunday night (local time), Mr Romney said he was "deeply grateful" to Puerto Rican governor Luis Fortuno and "the people of Puerto Rico for their support & help in winning today's primary".

Mr Fortuno, a Romney ally, declared victory for Mr Romney earlier on Sunday evening, as official returns trickled in more than three hours after polls closed.

"Now is the time to unite in a single Republican Party and send a message to the entire nation that we are with Romney," he told reporters.

Mr Santorum, a former US senator from Pennsylvania, had posed a potential threat to Mr Romney in Puerto Rico, since his Catholicism and social conservatism were seen resonating among some voters in the predominantly Roman Catholic territory.

But Mr Romney's campaign was endorsed by just about every prominent Republican on the Spanish-speaking Caribbean island, and Mr Santorum angered many Puerto Ricans with comments last week that they needed to make English their primary language if they wanted to pursue statehood.

Mr Romney has a big lead in support from party delegates, whose backing is needed to win the nomination.

But he faces a growing challenge from Mr Santorum in Illinois, which holds its primary contest on Tuesday.

The Illinois vote is the next big hurdle in the months-long fight to win the 1,144 delegates needed to seal the Republican nomination.

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