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Weekly Update
John Lindstrom
Gongwer News Service

I Told You So!

March 2, 2012

Don’t you just hate it when someone is so churlish to say, “I told you so”? Don’t you just detest the smarmy smugness oozing from the phrase? Worst of all, don’t you just hate the fact that they may be right, that they have the right to be smug?

Oh how annoying, how obnoxiously annoying.

Now what did we say last week? Something about a primary, in fact something about the delegate allocation rules of the Michigan Republican Party following the Republican Presidential Primary. What was said now? Hmm, something about a tie, was it? Something about a candidate being able to claim a win if he was able to split the delegates should he win in the congressional districts even if he didn’t win the popular vote?

Ahem, comments about telling one so, well, we’ll let it pass.

But what was foretold is exactly what has occurred following Tuesday’s primary. Indeedy weedy, but our purpose is not to gloat…too much…but to raise more questions about how it occurred. Specifically, the question of former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum’s tactic to call on Democrats to vote for him and what effect that might have going forward.
First, a moment to gleefully analyze the actions of Tuesday past. Tuesday’s primary was a kind of a kiss-your-sister primary. Michigan born and bred Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, won the popular vote and the bragging rights. Mr. Santorum appears to have won close to half the delegates because he won half the congressional districts. In that, he has won the right to scowl and mutter.

Mr. Santorum accomplished this because party rules allocate district delegates on a winner-take-all basis and Mr. Santorum won seven districts. So too did Mr. Romney.

Mr. Romney won a tight victory, and there is no question that absentee ballots and an overwhelming support in Oakland County played a major role in that. Mr. Santorum’s people say Mr. Romney won by just 3 percent; Mr. Romney’s people say, “Who cares?” And Mr. Romney’s people are right.

If the Tigers had beat the Cardinals by one run scored in the bottom of the ninth of the seventh game of the World Series (as heaven knows, they should have), anyone of sensible mind would say of a Cardinals fan who groused “It was just by one run” they were harvesting sour grapes. Such a comment by the Santorumites is as sour a grape as one could drink. If the position were reversed, certainly Mr. Santorum would claim a great win.

Mr. Santorum has some reason to claim a tie in the important category of delegates. His aides also say it is a victory. Yeah, okay, sure. Obviously, to win the nomination one needs sufficient delegates. So walking away with the same number of delegates, we think, does entitle him to claim a win in that regard. He could do so more graciously, but perhaps we ask too much.

From the campaign standpoint, Mr. Romney actually has the advantage because he can say he won. He can then take that advantage into the Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses. It helps in getting attention, it shows some momentum, but it will not be enough to win.

Let us return now to the question of why Mr. Santorum has an equal number of delegates. Because there is a chance that he may have an equal number of delegates because of his call to Democrats to vote for him. Well, at least, he may have won that equal number because some Democrats did vote for him.

Now, let us remember that Democrats have for some time debated whether they should go and vote in the Republican primary to make things interesting for Mr. Romney. Democrats, and others but especially Democrats, are furious at him for his 2008 comments on the prospective auto bailout. The idea that Democrats discussed was to vote for the candidate who was polling closest to Mr. Romney.

With Mr. Santorum’s emergence, he became the target of choice. In fact, when some Republican legislators invited Democrats to vote in the primary, Democrats leaped all over the invite.

Mr. Santorum then raised the ante with a controversial robo-call urging Democrats to vote for him to send “a message” to Mr. Romney. The Romney camp reacted furiously with its own robo-call saying in effect Mr. Santorum had taken on the other team’s uniform.

The issue of cross party voting in primaries has always been a vexed point. In the very first presidential primary in 1972, Democrats charged Republicans came in to vote for then Alabama Governor George Wallace (who had been shot the day before). Research indicates the Democrats may not have been as open-minded as they thought and that Mr. Wallace’s win was mostly Democrat-borne. Regardless, both parties have fumed over crossover primary voting, most recently in 2000 when Democrats probably did play a slight role in U.S. Sen. John McCain beating then Texas Governor George W. Bush (though Mr. McCain appealed to far more Republicans than perhaps then Governor John Engler thought).

This year, a number of Democrats said they had no intention of voting in the GOP primary because they didn’t think it right. They don’t like it when GOPs vote in Democratic primaries. They didn’t care who the nominee was because they think President Barack Obama will beat any comer. And of course they didn’t want the fact they requested a Republican ballot being public.

Most telling, Mr. Santorum’s robo-call did tread on ground not often trod. He didn’t just call on Democrats to vote for him, he wanted them to send a message to Mr. Romney.

What message? Mr. Santorum opposed the auto-bailout as much as Mr. Romney. Nor did he miss a chance to say he opposed the auto bailout and all bailouts to crowds, said such to a crowd in Lansing (and got very tepid applause when he did) probably at the same time his robo-call went out. So this was not a call to act on policy. This was basically a call to stick it to the other guy.

Now, did it work? More completely, did the whole idea of Democrats voting for Mr. Santorum work? Well….

About 9 percent of the total turnout identified itself as Democratic. Certainly they didn’t win Mr. Santorum the popular vote. Exit polls indicate most those who identified themselves as Republicans mostly voted for Mr. Romney.

But did Democrats get Mr. Santorum to a delegate tie? Consider: Mr. Santorum won seven congressional districts and Mr. Romney won seven. Mr. Santorum won in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th, 7th and 13th districts, Mr. Romney in the 5th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th and 14th.

What’s with the 13th? It’s a Democratic stronghold that encompasses much of Detroit. There Mr. Santorum nabbed 9,481 votes to Mr. Romney’s 7,946 votes. It had the smallest overall turnout of any district in the entire state, just 26,306 votes total cast. Heck, Mr. Santorum got 26,898 votes in a losing cause in the 12th district.

Could it be Democrats voting in that district did actually get Mr. Santorum two additional delegates? Might have been. More data from exit polls and such is not entirely available, so we can’t yet say with certainty. But it sure looks that way.

Which brings us to the next question: could the Santorum robo-call work against him? The Romney campaign spent the last day of the Michigan primary campaign pillorying Mr. Santorum for effectively committing partisan treason. In another tight primary fight, could this be brought up against him? Would it hurt him in a tight race?

Well, if it does, Mr. Romney could always say, “I told you so.”

John Lindstrom is publisher of Gongwer News Service. For more than 50 years in Michigan, Gongwer News Service has provided independent, comprehensive, accurate and timely coverage of issues in and around Michigan’s government and political systems. For subscription information, including a free trial, visit Gongwer online.

March 1, 2012 · Filed under Weekly Update Tags: , , , ,

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Art Myatt // Mar 2, 2012 at 9:54 am

    There’s no reason the state of Michigan should run primary elections at all. It costs millions to print ballots, open polling places and count votes. Then one or both of the parties for which the primary was run complain about the rules or the results or both. The Republican Party and the Democratic Party can each afford to develop their own procedures for selecting their candidates without costing the the state of Michigan a penny. That’s what the Green Party, the Libertarian Party and other parties on the Michigan ballot are able to do, and these smaller parties do not have nearly the resources of Republicans or Democrats. I would far rather cut off the two big parties and use the money for public education and public safety.

  • 2 chester marx // Mar 2, 2012 at 12:44 pm

    Agree completely with Art, there’s no need for the state to fund this debacle. That said, I got the call for Santorum, asking me to vote, but later Tuesday I got a call from the Romney camp, crying about the unfairness of it all, and the same call proceeded to play a copy of Santorum’s full. Still scratching my head about that one.

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