If you are a resident of Michigan, and your phone starts ringing today, there’s a pretty strong possibility that it may be Rick Santorum on the other end.
With today’s primary projected to have Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum neck and neck with each other, Santorum is looking for anything that could give him the edge he needs to get his upset. And that involves a whole lot of robocalls.
Someone is calling people claiming to be from the National Rifle Association, comparing Santorum and Romney’s record on gun rights. But the NRA says whoever is doing it, and wherever the list of contacts came from, they had nothing to do with it. “We’re not doing anything,’ said Andrew Arulanandam, director of Public Affairs for NRA-ILA, or Institute for Legislative Action. ‘Our position is anyone would be better than Barack Obama. It’s absolutely wrong. We are not paying for anything. We’re not spending one cent. That is not us — completely, unequivocally not us.’”
And that’s just a call to the likely Republicans. The campaign is also calling Democrats, targeting union members tell them Romney was against the auto bailout, and asking them to cross over and vote for Santorum in the open primary. “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.”’”
Romney is calling the tactics dirty politics. “It’s a new low in this campaign.” But it’s also a tactic that might have some lasting effect. According to the Washington Post, cross over voting has been a game both parties enjoy playing. “This is actually a pretty familiar exercise in Michigan, where the state voted for Democrats George Wallace in 1972 and Jesse Jackson in 1988 thanks, the story goes, to Republicans crossing over. More recently, Democrats were credited with giving the state to John McCain over George W. Bush in the 2000 GOP presidential race.”
With Republican state lawmakers encouraging the Democrats to participate, it may be hard for many to resist. But in some ways, it could backfire and help Romney instead. With the idea of Democrats infiltrating the process already out there, Santorum no longer has a shot at a legitimate win in the state — any victory will be tainted by the idea that it was Democratic meddling versus Republican choice. For Romney, a loss can now be a win, and a win could be an incredible story of not just overcoming his opponent, but the Democratic party, too.
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