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UPDATE: The Democratic crossover vote didn't deliver Rick Santorum a victory in Michigan's heavily-contested primary on Tuesday. And the effort to bolster it—from liberals and social conservatives alike—may not have even made much of a difference in the final vote tallies.
Much was made of early exit polls suggesting that large numbers of self-identified Democrats turned up at the polls Tuesday in a bid to prolong the GOP campaign. But the Washington Post dug into past election data to put things into context. The paper says that while Tuesday's exit polls may have shown that 9 percent of GOP votes were cast by Democrats, that figure is only a couple of ticks higher than the 7 percent who voted in 2008. Given the 2008 GOP primary was held on the same day as the Democratic one, it's not exactly a shocker that this time around more self-described Democrats would pull a GOP lever.
Furthermore, the Post argues, that the last time their was a sincere crossover push from Michigan Democrats—in 2000 for John McCain over George W. Bush—it delivered significantly more votes. On Tuesday, Democrats casting Santorum votes made up roughly 5 percent of the turnout. In 2000, however, Democrats gave McCain roughly 12 percent of the vote, actually handing him his margin of victory in the GOP primary.
When you subtract the self-identified Democrats who cast ballots for Mitt Romney on Tuesday, the crossover vote appears to have netted Santorum about 3 or 4 percent. In the end, the social conservative lost by about about 3 percentage points, 37.9 percent to Romney's 41.1.
Tuesday, Feb. 28: Rick Santorum's team appears to have taken a cue from the Democrat playbook for Tuesday's Michigan GOP primary.
The Detroit News reports that the Santorum campaign is making robocalls to Democratic voters in the Wolverine State, urging them to turn up at the polls Tuesday and cast Republican ballots for the former Pennsylvania senator—or, more specifically, against Mitt Romney.
The call blasts Romney for bailing out his "Wall Street billionaire buddies" while opposing the federal auto bailout, a key talking point for Democrats and their like-minded union allies. "That was a slap in the face to every Michigan worker, and we're not going to let Romney get away with it," the voice on the call continues.
A Santorum spokesman confirmed that the campaign was behind the calls, suggesting that it was an attempt to win over moderates for both the primary and the general election. "We know that if we can get a Reagan Democrat in the primary, we can get them in the fall," Santorum communications director Hogan Gidley told the News.
But despite the campaign's attempt to spin the calls as part of a larger November push, they come at the same time that a number of liberals and union activists are urging Democrats to vote for Santorum in Tuesday's primary for no other reason than to disrupt the GOP campaign and help President Obama this fall.
Romney has noticed Santorum's recent effort, calling the strategy a "dirty trick" on a Tuesday morning talk show. But, as Politico points out, the former Massachusetts governor is no stranger to crossover voting: He admitted during his last presidential run that in the 1990s, when there was no real contest in the Massachusetts GOP primary, he would vote for the Democrat who would be "the weakest opponent for the Republican."
Monday, Feb. 27: Looks like some Michigan Democrats must have rented the Ides of March this past weekend.
Both the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News report that a number of community organizers and their like-minded union allies are urging their party faithful to jump ship for just one day in a crossover strategy aimed at delivering the state to President Obama come November.
Technically, only Republicans can cast ballots in Tuesday's state GOP primary, but party rules allow any voter to declare herself a Republican on the spot, effectively giving Democrats the chance to play spoiler and impact what is expected to be a tight race between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. Such strategies have been floated before, but as the New York Times explains, Michigan appears particularly ripe for such shenanigans:
First, the state has a history of partisan meddling in the opposing primary, a fact that makes it more accepted among Michigan voters. And second, Mr. Romney’s well-publicized opinions about the auto bailout offer the perfect issue to lure members of the United Auto Workers to the polls.
According to the Detroit papers, one such push would have Democrats-turned-Republicans cast their ballots for Ron Paul, an initiative that if successful could hand the libertarian favorite Michigan’s delegates in the 13th and 14th districts, which are mostly in Detroit and the surrounding area.
Other liberals are urging Democrats to tick the box for Santorum, with the thinking that Obama would have an easier time defeating the former Pennsylvania senator come November than the Michigan-raised Romney. The left-leaning Daily Kos has jumped on the bandwagon and is promoting its “Operation Hilarity“ initiative, which encourages Democrats in key swing states to vote for Santorum. The pseudo-saboteurs hope not only to hurt Romney but also to drain Republican campaigns' bank accounts during a protracted nominating fight.