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McCain takes US territory delegates

Puerto Rico win adds 20 to tally

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Associated Press / February 25, 2008

TOA BAJA, Puerto Rico - Republican Party members in Puerto Rico awarded all 20 delegates at stake in yesterday's GOP caucuses to Senator John McCain, who has vowed to help resolve Washington's complicated relationship with the US Caribbean territory.

Each delegate will cast one vote at the Republican National Convention in September, joined by three local members of the Republican National Committee who have pledged to back the senator from Arizona as party delegates.

McCain swept all 38 GOP delegates awarded in US territories over the weekend, moving him closer to the Republican nomination for president. He also picked up endorsements from two unpledged delegates, giving him a total of 998. Rival Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas, has 254 delegates.

It will take 1,191 delegates to secure the nomination.

On Saturday, McCain won all nine delegates awarded by the GOP in American Samoa, as well as the nine GOP delegates from the US Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Puerto Ricans are US citizens but cannot vote for president, and their representation in Congress is restricted to a single nonvoting member. Puerto Rico's Democratic caucus will be held June 7, with 63 delegates to be selected.

In a letter to Luis Fortuno, Puerto Rico's nonvoting congressional delegate and a superdelegate, McCain pledged to support a process that would enable Puerto Ricans to decide whether they want to remain a commonwealth or become a state or an independent nation.

"The people of Puerto Rico deserve a process of self-determination and a congressionally defined referendum that gives them a fair and unambiguous choice among status options," McCain wrote. "That is one of the many important things that we will accomplish together."

American Samoa and the Northern Marianas are among three Pacific territories that will each send nine delegates to the GOP convention. Guam is set to make its selection March 8.

Some of the delegates elected at a party convention in the Northern Marianas on Saturday said they are convinced that McCain can deliver better times for the far-flung US territories in the Pacific.

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