This weekend is a first for the 2012 primary cycle: Two voting contests in two separate regions will be held within 24 hours of each other.
Missouri holds its caucus on Saturday, and Puerto Rico hosts its primary on Sunday.
Missouri’s caucus is confusing to say the least. There ‘s no “results” in the traditional sense of that word. No delegates are awarded, and there’s no percentage of the vote against which to measure who’s up and who’s down. Instead, Saturday’s contest marks the first step in a multi-step process toward electing the delegates to represent the state at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., in August.
Missouri already held one “meaningless” primary his year in February, in which Rick Santorum performed well. He “won” that event with 55 percent of the vote. That primary was essentially a straw poll: Voters chose their preferred candidate at the time, and it took the pulse of where Missouri voters were at that time. That event was totally separate from Saturday’s caucus, however, and will likely have no bearing on Missouri’s ultimate delegate allocation.
Puerto Rico is more straightforward. The U.S. territory comes with a total of 23 delegates, and 20 will be allocated proportionally. Local party officials expect that 300,000 to 400,000 votes will be cast on paper ballots, which are written in English and Spanish. All registered voters can vote in the primary, provided they sign a type of oath pledging loyalty to the values of the Republican Party.
John McCain carried Puerto Rico in 2008, receiving 91 percent of the vote, and took all 20 delegates allocated that year. McCain’s win came several weeks after Mitt Romney had dropped out of the 2008 race, and the Arizona senator was the presumed nominee.
This year couldn’t be more different. Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum each has a lot to gain from a victory in Puerto Rico. A win for Romney, who has the endorsement of Puerto Rico’s Gov. Luis Fortuno, would further increase his delegate lead, making a brokered convention a more remote possibility. A Santorum win would build on the momentum he gained from his Southern sweep last Tuesday, not a bad thing as the candidates head into into the Illinois primary two days later.