Romney in Puerto Rico Friday (Evan Vucci/AP)
Mitt Romney scored a major win over Rick Santorum in Puerto Rico's Republican presidential primary, taking all of the territory's 20 delegates that were up for grabs Sunday.
With 52 percent of precincts reporting, Romney led with 83 percent of the vote, compared to Santorum's 8 percent. Newt Gingrich trailed with just 2 percent, followed by Ron Paul at 1 percent. Because Romney won with more than 50 percent of the vote, he took the island's entire slate of delegates—further increasing his delegate advantage over Santorum, who, with just 239 delegates, has less than half the delegates Romney has amassed so far.
"So far, pretty darn good news," Romney said of the Puerto Rico results, as he shook hands with supporters at a rally in Vernon Hills, Ill., outside Chicago, where he was campaigning today ahead of that state's primary on Tuesday.
Romney was considered the favorite heading into the island's vote, having won the support of the party establishment. That includes Gov. Luis Fortuno, a Republican rising star who backed the former Massachusetts governor's campaign in January.
But Santorum, coming off wins last week in Mississippi and Alabama, tried to make a last-minute play for delegates in the territory. He campaigned on the island Wednesday and Thursday. During the trip, he stirred up controversy by telling a local newspaper that if Puerto Rico votes in favor of U.S. statehood—an issue that will be on the ballot in November—the territory would have to adopt English as its official language. Santorum later said his remarks were misinterpreted.
Romney sought to capitalize on the remark, publicly stating that he did not agree with Santorum's views. While Romney curtailed his own campaigning in Puerto Rico to concentrate on Illinois, his campaign ran a last-minute radio ad and published an "open letter" to Puerto Rico voters stating Romney's support for statehood.
In a statement Sunday night, Santorum adviser Hogan Gidley appeared to blame Santorum's loss in Puerto Rico on his English language stance--insisting that Romney had pandered to voters there with his own position.
"Rick Santorum has a consistent core--and he showed that when he went to Puerto Rico and took a locally unpopular but principled stance about English being the official language of America," Gidley said in a statement emailed to reporters.
Chris Moody contributed to this report.
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