Where Are the Northern Marianas?

Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney has won Saturday caucuses in Guam and Northern Marianas, securing all 18 delegates at stake in the U.S. Pacific territories.

All 251 delegates from island's 19 villages supported Romney. Romney sent his son to the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam to campaign on his behalf. He said, "I'm obviously thrilled that it's a unanimous decision."

But where are the Northern Marianas and how important are they?

The Northern Marianas are one of the two commonwealths of the United States (the other is Puerto Rico), consisting of 15 islands in between Hawaii and the Philippines. The total land area is approximately 179 square miles and the population is 58,883 according to the 2012 census. The bulk of the population (more than 90%) live on the island of Saipan, and only two other islands (Tinian and Rota) have people living on them.

The islands occupy a stategic position in between the United States and East Asia. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese forces launched an invasion of Guam, and the U.S. military subsequently invaded the islands at the end of World War II, and were then administered by the U.S. as part of the United Nations Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands.

Northern Marianas

Via Wikimedia Commons

The islands do not have representation in the U.S. Senate, but are represented in the House of Representatives by one delegate, who may vote in committee but not on the House floor.

Romney picked up all nine delegates, winning 740 of the 848 votes cast, with 53 votes for Rick Santorum, 28 for Ron Paul, and 27 for Newt Gingrich.

"The Northern Mariana Islands may be far away from the mainland, but one of the great things about our democracy is that every voice has a chance to be heard in selecting a presidential candidate," said Romney. "What they've said today is they want to bring change to their beautiful islands by bringing change to our nation's capital."

Matt Romney hosted a lunch on the islands on Friday, representing the first time a presidential camapaign has directly gone there in the 34 years since it was formed.

In the case of Guam, the 180,000 population enjoys U.S. citizenship, but cannot vote in the U.S. presidential elections. However, they can vote for the delegates sent to the party conventions. "Our votes count especially in a close process of the presidential candidate nomination," said Guam Governor Edward Calvo.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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