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Dirty Tricks by Michigan GOP?

9:27 PM, Mar 1, 2012 • By MICHAEL WARREN
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Are Mitt Romney supporters in the Michigan Republican party changing the rules after the game? That’s what Rick Santorum's campaign is alleging after the Michigan GOP announced it would be awarding both of the state’s at-large delegates to Romney as a result of Tuesday’s primary.

Michigan held its primary before Super Tuesday, so the Republican National Committee punished the state party by reducing its awardable delegates to 30. Twenty-eight of those delegates were allocated evenly by congressional district, while two became “at large” delegates, awarded based on the Michigan GOP’s rules.

Romney and Santorum split the state’s congressional districts in half on Tuesday, so each will get 14 delegates. And the Santorum camp, like many in the media, assumed up until yesterday that Michigan’s at-large delegates would be allocated proportionally. Since the margin between Romney and Santorum in the popular vote was very close, it would mean each candidate would get half of the at-large delegates, and the outcome from the Michigan primary, delegate-wise, would be a tie at 15.

But today the Michigan state party declared that the at-large delegates will be allocated on a “winner-take-all” basis, awarding Romney, who won the popular vote, both of those delegates and giving him a 16-14 delegate lead over Santorum.

Here’s what happened: The state party’s 6-member credentialing committee voted last night, 4-2, to “re-interpret” the party rules on at-large delegates. But on February 4, the committee had met to set their interpretation of the rules for the upcoming primary and released a memo explaining to the RNC and the media that the at-large delegates would be awarded proportionally. MSNBC has audio of state party chairman Bobby Schostak, who sits on the credentialing committee, explaining this very plainly:

We start off with, after the penalty, 30 voting delegates. Okay? Each district-congressional district - you can win individually. So you have 14 districts you can win two delegates. That takes you to 28. Okay? The two at-large that remain, provided the individual candidate won at least 15 percent of the statewide vote - okay so with four candidates that's likely to happen. Then they get awarded proportionally, those delegates, and then rounded to the nearest decimal point so there won't be any half delegates or quarter delegates.

So why the change to the rule? Saul Anuzis, another credentialing committee member (and a Romney supporter), told MSNBC there was confusion over an “error” in the post-February 4 memo. Here’s how Michigan GOP spokesman Matt Frendewey explained to MSNBC the math and why the remaining 2 at-large delegates are supposed to be awarded to the overall winner:

It is unfortunate if I did not explain this more clearly. When the RNC indicated it would penalize our total delegates and award us only 30 delegates, the credentials committee met on Feb. 4 and interpreted the penalty by voting unanimously to send Michigan’s full delegation. Within congressional districts, designate two out of the three delegates as the RNC recognized delegates and two out of the 14 at-large as RNC recognized delegates.

The at-large delegates are still awarded proportionally to candidates that achieve the 15 percent threshold, the two RNC recognized delegates are assigned to the candidate that wins the most votes. Michigan’s results, without the RNC penalty, 28-Romney/28-Santorum. If the RNC upholds its penalty, 16-Romney, 14-Santorum.

The Santorum campaign is crying foul, saying this is a move by members of the credentialing committee, the majority of whom they say publicly favor Romney, to break the delegate tie and give Romney an outright win in delegates.

Mike Cox, the former state attorney general and a credentialing committee member who voted against the change last night, told the Associated Press the rules as written and originally interpreted ought to be followed. “I have this crazy idea that you follow the rules,” said Cox, a Romney supporter himself. “I’d love to give the at-large delegates to Mitt Romney, but our rules provide for strict apportionment.”

But is the Santorum campaign making much ado over one measly delegate? On a conference call with the media, one reporter pointed out the fuss could look like sour grapes from Santorum, who is arguing the Michigan primary was a tie. Adviser John Brabender said it’s about the principle of the issue. “This is about someone purposely changing the rules to support a candidate after the election,” he said.

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