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Romney Hits Santorum Effort to Get Democratic Votes in Michigan (Updated)

"Outrageous and disgusting."

1:00 PM, Feb 28, 2012 • By MICHAEL WARREN
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The Santorum campaign made a last-minute effort to find votes in Michigan with this robocall, which encourages Michigan Democrats to vote for Rick Santorum (and against Mitt Romney) in today’s primary. Michigan’s open primary system means there’s no party registration requirement and voters can vote in whichever party’s primary they choose.

Santorum and Romney

“Romney supported the bailouts for his Wall Street billionaire buddies but opposed the auto bailouts,” says the voice on the pro-Santorum robocall. “That was a slap in the face to every Michigan worker, and we’re not going to let Romney get away with it.” Santorum opposed the bailouts of both the auto industry and Wall Street banks, a fact the ad does not mention.

It’s unclear if courting Democrats will help Santorum eke out a win in Michigan today. A new PPP poll shows Santorum with a one-point lead over Romney, 38 percent to 37 percent. While Romney leads among Republican voters 43 percent to 38 percent, the 8 percent of likely primary voters who are Democrats favor Santorum over Romney 47 percent to 10 percent. That would be enough, PPP says, to give Santorum the edge.

So it’s no surprise that the Romney campaign is pushing back hard against Santorum’s robocall effort. Spokeswoman Andrea Saul wrote to reporters in an email that Santorum is “resorting to Democrat cross-overs to prop up his floundering campaign [because] he can’t win among conservative voters,” calling the robocall an example of “dirty tricks.” Saul later said in an email to THE WEEKLY STANDARD, “this is a blatant effort by Rick Santorum to join forces with President Obama and his supporters to encourage Democrats to vote in the Republican primary.”

Romney himself also called the push a “dirty trick” and told Fox News this morning that the tactic was “outrageous and disgusting.”

“At the last hour, by the way, late in the afternoon on the day before the election, maybe hoping no one would notice, they start sending out calls telling [Democrats] to go into the Republican primary and vote against Mitt Romney,” Romney said on Fox and Friends.

Romney himself voted in the 1992 Democratic presidential primary in Massachusetts, a fact that came out during his last run for president in 2007. Asked about this cross-party primary voting, Saul said there’s “no comparison at all” to Santorum’s effort to encourage Democrats to vote in the Republican primary.

Update: Quin Hillyer points out that Ronald Reagan relied on Democrats in the 1976 primaries to keep his candidacy alive--which launched him as the GOP front-runner four years later.

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