Michigan GOP officials have raised a ruckus in the presidential race by awarding native son Mitt Romney 16 of the state's delegates rather than the 15 it appeared he won in Tuesday's primary election.
Michigan has 30 delegates to the party's national convention. State GOP rules said two of the delegates should be awarded proportionally based on the statewide vote, according to a party memo shared with the campaigns. The other 28 would be awarded based on the results in each of the state's 14 congressional districts.
Under these rules, Romney and GOP rival Rick Santorum's would split the delegates, with each getting 15. However, the Michigan Republican Party Credentials Committee voted 4-2 Wednesday night to give 16 delegates to Romney and 14 delegates to Santorum.
Committee members said the Feb. 7 memo was incorrect. Instead, they said, a new party rule adopted Feb. 4 was intended to award both statewide delegates to the statewide winner.
The Santorum campaign said it would appeal the ruling and, in an email, referred to the turn of events as an "election scandal."
"Clearly, Romney was very disappointed after spending a fortune to end up with a tie in the delegates in his home state. And now, clearly, somebody is trying to change the rules after the election to help Mitt Romney," said Santorum campaign senior adviser John Brabender.
The change will have little effect on the overall race for delegates. But it would take away Santorum's ability to call the election a tie in the state where Romney's was born.
In the overall race for delegates, Romney now leads with 168, followed by Santorum with 86. Newt Gingrich has 32 delegates and Ron Paul has 19.
Republican National Committee member Saul Anuzis, a Romney supporter and credentials committee member, said the committee was simply going by rule changes it adopted unanimously at a Feb. 4 meeting.
Those changes were never communicated to the campaigns, however, and some party officials were still saying Tuesday that the two at-large delegates would be awarded proportionally.
"Regrettably, there was an error in the memo drafted and sent to respective campaigns. It is clear now that the memo did not properly communicate the intent of the committee," Anuzis said. "Could you interpret it both ways? Yes. But this is what we decided."
In a slap at Santorum, Anuzis added that "they're asking us now to change our rules to fit their needs."
"It was premature for any candidate to be declaring the delegate count prior to an official announcement by the Michigan Republican Party," he said.
But Santorum campaign adviser John Yob, who declared the 15-15 tie a day ago, told reporters in a Thursday conference call that the memo spelling out how the at-large delegates would be awarded clearly said they'd be awarded proportionally.
"There is no gray area in what the rules say," the Michigan political strategist said.
Michigan originally had 59 national convention delegates but lost half by holding its primary ahead of March 6, in violation of national party rules.
On Feb. 7, the Michigan GOP credentials committee issued a memorandum to "interested persons," detailing how the party would award delegates, based on the reduced number.
According to state party rules, the memo said: "At-large delegates and alternates are allocated on a proportional basis of the statewide vote, to presidential candidates receiving at least fifteen percent (15%) of the statewide vote. This process of allocation will remain unchanged."
Anuzis insisted the committee members were clear on their decision to give both at-large delegates to the winner of the statewide vote, regardless of what the memo said. He denied the change was meant to help Romney specifically.
He also complained about Santorum using automated campaign calls to invite Democrats to vote for him in the GOP primary. The roughly 100,000 Democrats who voted were enough to give Santorum victories in five congressional districts, Anuzis said.
Credentials committee member Mike Cox voted against the change because he said the candidates went into Tuesday's election thinking the at-large delegates would be awarded proportionally, not on who won the popular vote.
He agreed with Anuzis that the committee wanted to award both delegates to one candidate rather than awarding them proportionally, but said that isn't what the memo ended up saying.
"I was a Romney surrogate. I'm firmly on his team, but a rule's a rule," Cox said Thursday.
Noted Brabender: "If the former attorney general of the state votes against it, that should speak for itself, especially if they are a Romney supporter. ... That is the type of thing that happens in Iran but never in America, and somebody needs to get to the bottom of this very quickly."
The state GOP's lawyer, Eric Doster, drafted the memo and was the other "no" vote Wednesday night.
Besides Anuzis, those voting "yes" were Michigan GOP Chairman Bobby Schostak, party Co-Chairwoman Sharon Wise and former state Rep. Bill Runco, who endorsed Romney in a Feb. 20 press release. Neither Schostak nor Wise has endorsed a candidate.
Michigan GOP rules allow the decision to be appealed to the Credentials Committee, but it's unlikely that will result in Santorum getting back the lost delegate.
The decision also could be challenged at this summer's Republican National Convention.
Associated Press writer Stephen Ohlemacher in Washington contributed to this report.
Follow Kathy Barks Hoffman on Twitter: http://twitter.com/kathybhoffman
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