According to Puerto Rico’s electoral commission, with about 60 percent of the ballots counted, Romney had about 83 percent of the vote, Rick Santorum was in second place with just under 8 percent.
“Those people who think Latinos won’t vote for a Republican need to talk to the people of Puerto Rico,” Romney said at a town hall meeting in Vernon Hills, Illinois. “I intend to get Latino voters to vote Republican and take back the White House.”
According to The Huff Post, Romney won all 20 delegates to the national convention at stake because he prevailed with more than 50 percent of the vote.
After the Puerto Rico victory, Romney had 521 delegates, Santorum had 253, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich trailed with 136 delegates and Texas Rep. Ron Paul had 50.
Santorum had posed an early potential threat to Romney in Puerto Rico, since his Catholicism and social conservatism were seen resonating among some voters in the predominantly Roman Catholic territory, tells Reuters.
But he managed to anger many Puerto Ricans with his comments last week that they needed to make English their primary language if they wanted to pursue statehood over their current status as a self-governing U.S. commonwealth.
“In Puerto Rico, we get along fine with both languages,” said Francisco Rodriguez, a 76-year-old architect who supported Romney and hopes Puerto Rico becomes the nation’s 51st state.
Puerto Rico that is situated about 1,200 miles from the U.S. mainland, has about 3.8 million people. Its citizens can vote in partisan primaries but not in presidential elections.
Puerto Ricans will vote in November in a statehood referendum. Congress would have to give approval for Puerto Rico to become the 51st state.
Meanwhile, the Santorum campaign accused Romney of pandering.
“Mitt Romney says he supports English as the official language of America while on the mainland, but then says Puerto Ricans don’t have to learn English while he’s on Puerto Rico,” Santorum communications director Hogan Gidley said in a press release.
Both Santorum and Romney focused their attacks on president Obama more than on each other.
“We’re hanging in there, we’re fighting, we’re climbing,” Mr. Santorum said in an interview on the ABC News program “This Week.” “We have got the best message, the best contrast with President Obama.”
Romney, who arrived Sunday evening to greet voters in the far northern suburbs of Chicago has also turned his attention to Mr. Obama. According to The New York Times, Romney’s campaign aides are waging a tenacious fight for delegates, but are trying to keep his message focused on the long-term goal of winning in the fall.
“I think the people of our party want to make sure we have a nominee that can beat Barack Obama,” Mr. Romney told “Fox News Sunday.” “I know a lot of people will talk about delegates and strategies and math and that’s all very interesting to the insiders.”
Romney’s wife, Ann, urged Republicans to unite behind her husband. “It’s time to come together,” she said at a rally in suburban Chicago. “It’s time to get behind one candidate and get the job done so we can move on to the next challenge, bringing us one step closer to defeating Barack Obama.”
Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker who has pledged to keep his candidacy alive, took a rare break from Sunday television news programs and did not campaign here on the weekend before the primary.
The Telegraph says that polls have put Mr Romney narrowly ahead of Mr Santorum in Illinois, but at the same time both candidates have said that victory will be crucial in establishing the momentum that could eventually propel them to the nomination.
If Mr Santorum wins Illinois primary it would prolong a bitter and divisive campaign and once again raise questions about the ability of Mr Romney, a multi-millionaire management consultant, to connect with ordinary voters.
John McCain, the Republican candidate in 2008 who lost to Mr Obama, has earlier endorsed Mr Romney. But on Sunday he described the race as “the nastiest I have ever seen” and warned that a brokered convention – the first since the Reagan-Ford contest of 1976 – would be hugely damaging.
“It’s gone way too long and gotten way, way too personal,” Senator McCain told NBC, “Attacks on character and all of that have been very unfortunate. And, again, who has benefited from it? President Obama.”