Political Animal


February 28, 2012 9:44 AM Michigan Mischief

By Ed Kilgore

You will probably hear a lot tonight, particularly if Rick Santorum is running relatively well in Michigan, about Democrats “crossing over” on the Pennslyvanian’s behalf. And if this is the big story, and results are coming in kinda slow, you will hear an awful lot about how MI Dems did this very same thing in 2000 to help John McCain stay alive against George W. Bush, or how MI Republicans back in the day cast tactical voters for Jesse Jackson and George Wallace.

That’s all well and good, but it’s important to keep several story lines separate. Some Ds crossing over will indeed be tactical voters while some are either vaguely attracted to Santorum or hate Romney so much it’s hard to call their votes truly “tactical” in the sense of cold-blooded efforts to extent the nominating process or produce the weaknest nominee.

And aside from voter motives, there are several efforts to “mobilize” Democrats to crossover on Santorum’s behalf that it is helpful to keep separate. One is by a local Democratic political consultant named Joe DiSano who is sending emails and even paying for robocalls to targeted Democratic households with a simple message of encouraging them to vote to embarrass Romney and help Obama. Another. launhced by blogger Markos Moulitsas, calls itself “Operation Hilarity,” which is also overtly mischief-making, and aims at ginning up no more than a couple of thousand Santorum votes.

Then there are anti-Romney ads being run in the state by the Obama Super-PAC, Priorities USA, which are justifiable as general election positioning.

And at the last minute, the Santorum campaign has launched a robocall campaign targeting Democratic voters, as reported by TPM:

Bill Ballenger, a longtime Michigan politico and the editor of Inside Michigan Politics, spoke with TPM about the call earlier in the day. He said the call piqued his interest because it sounded like it could have come from a union targeting Romney ahead of the Feb. 28 primary. The call focuses on Romney’s opposition to the auto bailout and calls on Democrats to vote for Santorum Tuesday because of it.
“It went on and on like this and I kept listening because I kind of smelled a rat,” Ballenger said. “And finally at the very end, in a tagline it says, ‘this call was paid for by the Santorum for president committee.’”

Thanks to exit polling, you will hear quite precise numbers about Demcratic participation in the primary tonight, but it’s unlikely there will be anything other than anecdotal discussion of crossover motives. The one thing that’s clear is this: Romney’s camp will spin every single Democratic vote for Santorum as insincere and tactical, and Santorum’s will spin every single Democratic vote as proving its candidate’s Reaganesque appeal to the blue-collar voters of the Great American Heartland, blah blah bark bark woof woof. So be forewarned and bring a shovel.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Stetson Kennedy on February 28, 2012 10:23 AM:

    Romney’s camp will spin every single Democratic vote for Santorum as insincere and tactical

    Romney, on excuse 1,326 on why he cast a vote for Paul Tsongas in the 1992 democratic primary:

    When there was no real contest in the Republican primary, I’d vote in the Democrat primary, vote for the person who I thought would be the weakest opponent for the Republican.

    Well...karma's a bitch.

  • chopin on February 28, 2012 10:31 AM:

    What, no woof woof conspiracy theory that Obama's Secret Muslim Brotherhood stuffed the boxes with illegal ballots?

  • Barbara on February 28, 2012 10:33 AM:

    I live in Michigan and my phone was ringing off the hook on Sunday with some robocall about voting in today's primary.

    I am a Democrat and while I entertained the notion of voting in today's primary, I could not bring myself to vote for Romney, Santorum, Paul or Gingrich (he is on the ballot, yes?) I find Romney completely insincere and his advocacy that Detroit should go bankrupt is something most Michiganders will not forget anytime soon.

    Santorum is a dangerous crackpot who does not support the Constitution and Paul (of the racist newsletters) would not get a vote from me anytime this century. I think people have overestimated Democrats' desire to vote for these candidates. They are all terrible and do not inspire a lot of passion to mess with their game. The field is already a mess - no matter who wins MI today. Romney is weakened by having so many close contests (and losing a few), Santorum is 3 days away from chanting in Latin at a press conference.

  • SYSPROG on February 28, 2012 10:41 AM:

    The 'spin' has already started. I saw a particularly sanctimonious GOP consultant talking about the Democrat's 'egregious shenanigans'. When it was pointed out that SANTORUM was robocalling this, he piously opined that STILL it was the DEMS that were crossing over....tsk tsk tsk.

  • artsmith on February 28, 2012 10:56 AM:

    Of course, let us keep our focus on Limbaugh also and how he spins this. Let us also not forget how he spent HOURS encouraging Republicans to vote in crossover primaries to mess with the Democratic outcomes.

  • John on February 28, 2012 11:01 AM:

    Does this kind of thing ever work? Would anyone be surprised if Romney wins the votes of Democrats voting in the GOP primary?

  • MuddyLee on February 28, 2012 11:13 AM:

    I heard some talk of Dems in SC encouraging a vote for Newt to embarrass Romney, but crossing over is risky business. Your neighbors might think you're a republican....it's not worth it.

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on February 28, 2012 11:25 AM:

    Will whoever wins get doused in pig's blood?

    And the GOP wonders why a more respectable nominee (be there such a thing) won't enter the race...

  • Quaker in a Basement on February 28, 2012 12:33 PM:

    My question: will we get to hear Rush "Operation Chaos" Limbaugh bawling about this?

  • Pups on February 28, 2012 2:42 PM:

    Romney's hypocrisy on this issue, as referenced above:

  • KarenJG on February 28, 2012 5:18 PM:

    Personally, I think it's a dangerous game. Many people here laugh at Santorum's chances, should he become the nominee, but there's no doubt that he fires up the wing-nut base more than Romney. They'll come out to vote for him in droves, and remember a candidate doesn't have to win a majority of the population, he just has to win a majority of the voters in each state.

    Yes, Santorum would probably lose to Obama. But I don't think it's worth the risk that he might not.

  • Harris on February 28, 2012 6:04 PM:

    Then again, the ballot was filled with a host of delightful names. Don't like the Romney/Santorum/Paul trifecta? How about a little bit of good ol' Buddy Roemer? or the ever adult Jon Huntsman? No? If you had a taste for particular brand of crazy there was always Michelle and Rick Perry. Such choices, and so little time.