Sabato's Crystal Ball

A Puerto Rican Vice President?

Joseph Figueroa, U. Va. Center for Politics June 2nd, 2011

Beneath the surface of all the buzz surrounding the GOP nomination for president in 2012 lies speculation about everyone’s favorite “bucket of warm spit:” possible vice presidential running mates for the eventual candidate. Many have speculated that the veep nominee will be an opportunity for the Republicans to attract new voters from the ever-growing minority populations in the United State; specifically, the Hispanic voters who have been moving into the Democratic column.

One of the names being thrown around by some–most notably by former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty–has been Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuño. Fortuño is a young and potentially attractive Hispanic Republican–much like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Gov. Susana Martinez (R-NM)–but given Puerto Rico’s current status as a commonwealth, is he even constitutionally eligible for the job?

Yes. According to a law signed by President Truman in 1952, all people born in Puerto Rico on or after Jan. 13, 1941, are native-born citizens of the United States. As Fortuño was born in San Juan on Oct. 31, 1960, he would be eligible for the GOP ticket.

The irony in all this is that, if Fortuño did end up with the VP nomination, he would not be able to vote for himself in the general election, as U.S. citizens living in Puerto Rico are not eligible to vote in presidential elections. Fortuño has been a vocal advocate for Puerto Rican statehood, the single biggest political issue dividing the parties on the island.

The plot thickens for Puerto Rican (and presidential) politics. Stay tuned…