The PR Battle Over PR

Barack Obama’s campaign announced today the


of Puerto Rico Gov. Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, pretty clearly timed to showcase Obama’s appeal to Hispanics as the Texas primary looms.

But it also highlights the role Puerto Rico will play on June 7 as the last Democratic primary contest. If the race for delegates remains neck and neck, people might be tempted to look at the battle over Puerto Rico’s 63 delegates as a deciding factor in the war for the nomination.  

But in reality, the PR caucuses (they might switch to a primary last-minute if they want to boost turnout) aren’t going to change much. For one thing, delegates are allocated proportionally, as in other Democratic primaries. Various pundits have floated the notion that Puerto Rico will be a winner-take-all showdown. But that theory has been summarily debunked . (What happened was, the island voted so late in the 2000 and 2004 Democratic primaries that only one candidate was left on the ballot, making it de facto winner-take-all.)

What’s more, even on the spectrum of proportionally allocated contests, Puerto Rico is likely to be closer than most. Remember how districts with an even number of delegates almost always split in half ? Well, Puerto Rico has eight districts, and all but one of them have an even number of delegates. (The 2008 numbers haven’t been finalized; apparently Puerto Rico will be getting a “bonus” of three more district delegates.) That means that unless one candidate scores a landslide victory, the 36 district delegates will split more or less evenly. Same with the territory’s 12 at-large delegates and seven PLEOs, all of which are also allocated proportionally. Clinton and Obama are close among superdelegates, too: Three have sided with Hillary; one with Obama.

In other words, Puerto Rico is bound to be a wash. Of course, that doesn’t mean there won’t be room for hard-hitting, on-scene reporting from the beach.