Mitt Romney heads in to Illinois’s presidential primary this week with a handy win in Puerto Rico, pocketing the territory’s 20 GOP delegates in a bruising race that has become a numbers game for the Republican nomination.
With about 83% of total ballots accounted for early Monday in Puerto Rico, Romney had garnered more than 98,000 votes—or 83% of the total—based on unofficial results obtained from local party and election officials.
Rick Santorum was a distant second, at 8% with slightly more than 9,500 votes.
The other two candidates, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Rep. Ron Paul, were barely registered in the race with 2,431 votes, or 2% of the vote, and 1,452 votes, or 1%, respectively.
Romney framed his win in Puerto Rico as the territory’s desire for a candidate that “most represents their feelings”—and especially their desire to nominate some who can bring about a stronger economy and a smaller government.
He also said his party can appeal to Latinos, and win the presidency, with a low-tax, pro-business message.
“Those people who don’t think that Latinos will vote for a Republican need to take a look in Puerto Rico,” said the former Massachusetts governor, noting that the territory’s governor and its legislative leaders are conservative.
“Hispanic voters are going to vote for Republicans if we stand for something—conservative principles that bring growth and good jobs and rising home values. That’s how we’re going to win, and we’re going to get Latino voters to help us out.”
Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator, created a small political firestorm on the island in the days leading up to the primary when he said English should be the principal language in Puerto Rico before it could gain statehood. Puerto Rico will vote on a statehood referendum in November.
After arriving in Puerto Rico on Friday, Romney said he would have “no preconditions” on language for Puerto Rico to gain statehood, though during a CNN debate in January he said English should be the nation’s official language.