Should we be making room for a new star on the flag?

In one of the less-noticed results last night, voters in Puerto Rico for the first time overwhelmingly voted in favor of becoming a U.S. state. 

With 243 of 1,643 precincts reporting late Tuesday, 75,188 voters, or 53 percent, said they did not want to continue under the current political status. Forty-seven percent, or 67,304 voters, supported the status quo.

On the second question, 65 percent favored statehood, followed by 31 percent for sovereign free association and 4 percent for independence.

President Obama has pledged to respect the results of the referendum (as, for what it's worth, did Mitt Romney), but of course Congress must approve the addition of any new states to the Union. Though only a simple majority is needed, that can be difficult to come by as we residents of Washington D.C. have learned over the years.

The conventional wisdom is that Puerto Rico would -- like D.C. -- be a solid blue state, making Republican senators unlikely to support it. But history shows, that a new state's future political trajectory can be difficult to predict. When the last two states were admitted, it was widely assumed that Hawaii would lean Republican and Alaska would lean Democrat -- multicultural Hawaii was opposed in particular by pro-segregation southern Democrats. John F. Kennedy won the Aloha State by just 115 votes in 1960. Last night, Obama took the state where he was born with 70 percent of the vote while Sarah Palin's state went 55 percent for Romney.

There is some reason to think Puerto Rican statehood wouldn't necessarily be a slam dunk for Democrats. Puerto Rican politics don't break down along strict Republican-Democrat lines, but many members of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party lean to the right, including current governor Luis Fortuno, who was a staunch Romney backer and a featured speaker at the Republican National Convention. It's not entirely out of the question that the GOP could make a play for the new state.

Making the statehood qusetion more complicated is the fact that Fortuno lost his election to Alejandro Garcia Padilla of the anti-statehood Popular Democratic Party. It's not yet clear exactly how the debate will play out in the wake of the referendum and victories by Padilla and Obama, but if D.C.'s experience is any guide, it could take a while.  


Election envy: Obama's victory as seen from the Chinese Internet

The sigh of relief from China was almost audible. Now Chinese officials "don't need to deal with unnecessary disputes over issues like currency and trade while dealing with its own political transition," said Vincent Ni, a correspondent for the Chinese business magazine Caixin, who's been covering the U.S. election. The state-run Chinese news agency Xinhua reported optimistically that "Obama has a unique opportunity to make an even more far-reaching impact on China-U.S. ties, if he has the political courage and wisdom to cast away the uncalled-for worries over China's rise."

The Chinese reaction hasn't been all positive. Woeser, a prominent half-Tibetan half-Chinese dissident blogger, wrote on Twitter (blocked but accessible in China) last night that although she hadn't supported Romney, she was disappointed with Obama's victory. I asked why, and she pointed to an essay she had written in response to his 2009 trip to Beijing, where although she was happy that Obama had mentioned the importance of basic human rights to "the head of the world's largest totalitarian system," he didn't come out and explain what those rights were. Writing for FP in mid-October, director of the Center for American Studies at Fudan University Shen Dingli said that Sino-U.S. relations tend to be better under Republican presidents. "The logic is simple: no delusion from the outset, fewer human rights distractions, frank talk, and concrete cooperation whenever possible," he wrote.

But the overwhelming response for Chinese netizens seems to be a sense of triumph, even vicarious glee at Americans' ability to choose.

This being the Chinese internet, things got a little weird. "It's same reason porn films are popular," the Wall Street Journal quoted a Chinese internet user as saying. "You want to do it but you can't so you content yourself with watching others." The British condom manufacturer Durex wrote a post on its Sina Weibo account that seemed to capture the spirit of Chinese views-and indeed, was forwarded an astonishing 43,000 times. It features the photo of an enthusiastic Michelle Obama with her hands out wide, above a photo of a tense Ann Romney holding up her thumb and her index finger.  The caption reads: "The difference between Obama and Romney."

Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images