Forget all those confusing polls, the Republican front-runner is without question George Bush.

Not because he won the Iowa precinct caucuses, nor because of his subsequent surge in the polls. He is the front-runner because of Puerto Rico, which yesterday kicked off the presidential primary season.

Say what you want about Puerto Rico being unrepresentative, about the deminance of statehood as the only political issue on the island, about the wide open rules that governed the voting yesterday. The fact is, George Bush won the primary easily and was rewarded with 14 first-ballot votes at the Republican National Convention in Detroit.

Put that together with the results from Arkansas, which completed filling out its delegation this weekend, and the Republican race looks like this:

Bush leads with 16 delegates, Ronald Reagan is second with seven, Sen. Howard H. Baker Jr., who was Bush's chief rival in Puerto Rico, has four, John Connally has one, and five are uncommitted.

The weather in Puerto Rico yesterday was sunny, the temperature in the 80s. From GOP headquarters in San Juan, you could see the waves rolling in off the ocean. It's enough to make the candidates and the media forsake New Hampshire and make Puerto Rico the permanent early battleground from now on.