Trump’s First March 15 Win: Turning 343 Votes Into Nine Convention Delegates

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Micro beach on Garapan, Saipan, Northern Marianas, Central Pacific, Pacific
Despite a scandal-stained history with the GOP, the Northern Mariana Islands' Republican caucuses were a tropical paradise for Donald Trump.Photo: Michael Runkel

It won’t get remotely anything like the attention that will be paid to Florida, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina, and Ohio, but the first March 15 Republican nominating contest to report was one way off in the Pacific, where Donald Trump won (it is expected) all nine delegates up for grabs in caucuses in the Northern Mariana Islands. 

Here’s the amazing thing, per The Wall Street Journal:

The Republican presidential front-runner took 343 votes out of 471 total cast at three caucus sites on the islands, according to the Republican Party of the Northern Mariana Islands Association, which declared Mr. Trump the winner. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz placed second with 113 votes. Ohio Gov. John Kasich was third with 10 votes. Five people in the Northern Mariana Islands voted for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, according to totals relayed by Republican officials in Saipan.

You have to wonder if those five Rubio voters were too far away to discern the smell of death around the Florida senator’s campaign. 

But how about the Donald’s efficiency in scooping up nine delegates from a mere 343 votes? Not to pick on Rubio, but by comparison it took him 180,989 votes to win nine delegates in Tennessee on March 1. Today he may get over a half-million votes and absolutely no delegates from his home state of Florida, but that’s another story. 

If you have a vague memory of unsavory Republican activities linked to the NMI, you are right: The islands played an important role in the Jack Abramoff saga. In the late 1990s, there was a bipartisan effort in Congress to place NMI under U.S. labor and immigration laws to stop an ongoing scandal wherein women from China (mostly) were brought in on false pretenses to work in garment-producing sweatshops under atrocious conditions (which often led to forced prostitution) for extremely low wages. But then NMI hired Abramoff as its lobbyist, and lo and behold Jack’s buddy Tom DeLay deep-sixed the legislation that would have put an end to the abuses, and Jack’s other buddy Grover Norquist praised the islands as some sort of free-market paradise. Abramoff also arranged for junkets to NMI for members of Congress and staff, who worked in cursory inspections of “model” apparel plants around a heavy schedule of golf and snorkeling. 

The NMI’s garment industry is history now, and Korean and Japanese tourism (along with some gambling and prostitution) is the main economic activity. But apparently the territory’s Republicans see a bright future in the Trump administration.