(Update: Whoops! Just edited the headline to make the verb agree with the [plural] subject. Sorry for the lapse.)
Mitt Romney's presidential candidacy survived a near-death experience last night, with his victory in Michigan.
We will see going forward, but I believe that Rick Santorum's efforts to deploy liberals to help him win may have hurt him with loyal Republicans in Michigan (and maybe elsewhere?). There's nothing wrong with seeking to appeal to Reagan Democrats, but Santorum clearly sought to encourage Democrat mischief-making among the hard core liberals who would NEVER vote GOP (no matter the nominee) in the fall . . . and were supporting him because they realized he's the easier candidate for President Obama to beat. Indeed, the more liberal Democrats who voted (not the Reagan Democrats!) were the ones who were supporting Santorum.
Whether Romney or any other Republican had tried this, it wouldn't have sat well with me. It's like inviting neighborhood thugs into your house to help you win a family fight. You just don't seek to deploy your adversaries against those who are, for the most part your allies, just for your own personal gain -- especially if the stakes are as high for the country this year as Santorum says they are (and especially if you've opposed such tampering in the past few weeks
One wonders whether my feelings aren't shared more generally by Republicans -- meaning this business will come back to hurt Santorum. I suspect that polling may have shown that Michigan GOP'ers would be profoundly uncomfortable with the tactic. Why? Because Romney complained about it.
Sure, he was trying to backfill should it turn out that Santorum upset him in Michigan. But if you think about it, uniquely among the GOP contenders, Romney hasn't complained about anything throughout the whole primary season. Not his press coverage. Not about being ignored. Not about the primary schedule. Not about anything. Like him or hate him, he isn't a whiner.
But he did complain about the Santorum tactic -- and did it far and wide. My sense is that (in contrast to Santorum) he's not a guy whose mouth gets carried away, and that before he decried Santorum's ploy, his campaign tested the effectiveness of such a complaint.
It may be done and forgotten by most by Super Tuesday. But I believe that some Republicans won't forget that Santorum was willing to join forces with those completely hostile to everything conservatives stand for -- just for his own personal purposes. What that means is that he turned out to be less ideologically principled than even Hillary Clinton was, when she declined to make common cause with Rush four years ago.
One final thought: It would be interesting to know whether there is a gender-based division on how people feel about Santorum's tactic. My husband didn't object to it at all, figuring "all's fair . . ." Could Santorum have mostly alienated women with this -- the segment that's already (figuratively) killing his chances?