As voters head to the polls for tomorrow’s all important Super Tuesday state primaries, Democrats in American Samoa will caucus in the first of five contests to be held in the United States territories. Residents of the South Pacific island chain, as with those in Puerto Rico, Guam, the US Virgin Islands and the Northern Mariana Islands, are not eligible to vote in the November general election but do have a say in selecting their party’s nominee. American Samoa will send 10 of the combined 112 U.S. territory delegates to the Democratic convention in July.
While neither Hillary Clinton nor Bernie Sanders has personally campaigned in American Samoa, which is roughly an eight-hour flight from Hawaii, former first daughter Chelsea Clinton recorded an audio message for local voters. Clinton made a brief visit to the territory as secretary of state in 2010. She traveled to Puerto Rico for campaign-related events in September. The Sanders campaign says it’s also coordinating American Samoa outreach efforts from the mainland.
“As we said from the beginning, Hillary Clinton’s campaign intends to compete in every contest and for every vote – voter by voter, caucus goer by caucus goer,” Clinton campaign spokesman Ian Sams told MSNBC. “This includes the territories, and we have volunteers in each of them helping us organize, empower and energize our supporters to attend their respective contests and support Hillary Clinton.”
Clinton is hoping for a repeat victory in American Samoa, where she defeated Barack Obama in 2008, and has secured endorsements from Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga as well as the chair and vice chair of the territory’s Democratic Party. Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders received an unexpected endorsement on Sunday from American Samoa-born Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), who resigned her position as DNC vice chair in order to support the Vermont senator. Gabbard moved to Hawaii when she was 2 years old, but her connection to the region is one the campaign said it intends to play up today.
Democrats will gather at 9 a.m. SST tomorrow – 3 p.m. ET – at American Samoa’s only caucus location, the Tradewinds Hotel in the capital of Pago Pago. Presidential candidate and California businessman Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente has also registered with the local Democratic Party.
Republicans in American Samoa will hold their party’s caucus on March 22. In 2012, all nine of the islands’ GOP delegates went to eventual nominee Mitt Romney, whose campaign put a heavy emphasis on the U.S. territories. Romney traveled to Puerto Rico that year, while his son Matt spent time in the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam.
“In a tight delegate race, the islands can make the difference and can sneak up on candidates who aren’t well organized,” Romney’s 2012 Deputy Campaign Manager Katie Packer told MSNBC. “It made a big difference in keeping our delegate count ahead of [Rick] Santorum after some tough losses in Colorado and Minnesota. On the day Santorum was expecting to rack up a big win in Kansas, we had more islands delegates than Kansas would produce before Santorum got out of bed.”