Like beauty, victory in the Puerto Rico Republican state (or commonwealth) convention last weekend appears to be in the eye of the beholder.

A press release from Sen. Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) began, "In an upset victory over Bush, Dole forces swept GOP leadership elections in Puerto Rico this weekend, paving the way to secure a majority of the delegates to be selected later this winter for the Republican National Convention . . . . Moreover, the Dole organization won a 10-to-8 majority on the {Puerto Rican} Republican Executive Committee, which sets the rules for selecting delegates to the national convention."

But Vice President Bush's forces countered, "The George Bush for President campaign coupled an overwhelming straw poll victory with the election of local Bush supporters to key state party leadership positions at the Puerto Rico Republican Party state convention on Nov. 1 . . . . Twelve Bush supporters now sit on the state Executive Committee, giving the vice president's forces a clear majority on that committee."

What's going on?

Just some political blue smoke and mirrors as the Dole forces try to shake Bush's apparent lock on all of Puerto Rico's 14 Republican National Convention delegates. Dole supporters contend that they control the executive committee and the 1,500 state convention delegates, which would enable them to change the rules.

Under current commonwealth law, Puerto Rico's GOP delegates are selected in a winner-take-all primary scheduled for March 20. Bush, who is popular in Puerto Rico, won all of them over former senator Howard H. Baker Jr. in the 1980 primary, despite Baker's support by the local GOP establishment. Political observers say Bush would sweep them again. Dole's backers want to have the state convention select the delegates proportionally, which would give Dole at least a share.

Bush won the straw poll at the convention last Sunday, 790 to 108, but Dole's backers say that doesn't mean anything.

"The votes for the contested seats on the executive committee are the true measure of control," contends Donald J. Devine, senior consultant to the Dole campaign. "We won the vote for national committeeman by 498 to 467, for national committeewoman, 514 to 430, and for youth director, 556 to 355."

But did Dole really win these contested seats?

Former governor and founder of the pro-statehood party Luis Ferre, who is Bush's Puerto Rico campaign chairman, may be Bush's secret weapon, according to political observers.

"He's 84 and when he dies the people will make him a saint," said Michael Govan, Ferre's chief of staff when he was governor. "The Dole backers wanted to try to change the rules on Sunday but Ferre blocked them by threatening to walk out. He's not confrontational, but if he has to squeeze {National Committeewoman} Nitza Navarro and {Youth Director} Tito Gonzalez, they'll change, and the new national committeeman, state Rep. Edison Misla, isn't seated until after the national convention."

There are eight GOP district directors on the executive committee -- evenly divided between Dole and Bush. Two other committee members are loyal to Bush and as party chairman, Ferre can appoint five other members who would be Bush loyalists.