WASHINGTON – Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuño announced his support for Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney as a result of his “leadership and experience,” just days before the Florida primary, where the Latino vote will be a key factor.
“Mitt Romney is the one candidate who has the record, leadership, experience and pro-growth plan to continue the course of private-sector job creation we’ve begun in Puerto Rico and provide economic stability for generations,” said Fortuño in a statement Friday night in Orlando while participating in an event alongside the candidate, who thanked him for his support.
“Mitt Romney has shown throughout his life that the principles learned in the private sector can be applied to all challenges, whether it was saving the 2002 Olympics or balancing the budget as governor,” the Puerto Rican governor went on to say.
Hours earlier, Romney had said in a speech at the Hispanic Leadership Network in Miami that Fortuño is “passionate about statehood” for Puerto Rico, which is a U.S. commonwealth. The former Massachusetts governor said: “I’m looking forward to the time when the people of Puerto Rico make their decision about becoming a state.”
“I expect the people of Puerto Rico will decide, like (Fortuño) feels, that they want to become a state, and I can tell you that I will work with him to make sure that if that vote comes out in favor of statehood, that we will go through the process in Washington to provide statehood to Puerto Rico and, again, to create a model in the Caribbean – one more model in Latin American of the benefits of having freedom,” Romney said.
Puerto Ricans will go to the polls in November to decide in a non-binding referendum whether they want the island to become the 51st U.S. state.
Puerto Rico, which has been a U.S. commonwealth since 1952, on March 18 will hold its Republican caucus to select the 23 delegates who will represent the island’s people at the Republican convention in August.
The endorsement of Fortuño, 51, for Romney is seen as a big boost for the candidate among Hispanics, given that the Puerto Rico governor is one of the most prominent Latino Republicans.
According to the latest voter survey, Romney holds a slight advantage over former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in Florida, where almost a fourth of the population is Hispanic.
Romney, who is considered to be the Republican front-runner for the party’s presidential nomination, has suffered several reverses in recent weeks after winning the New Hampshire primary in early January.
Last week, he lost the South Carolina primary to Gingrich by a wide margin and after being dubbed the narrow winner in the Iowa caucus, a vote recount showed that former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum had actually triumphed there, albeit by only a few dozen votes.