Guy Benson

I know we linked a story about it earlier on the homepage, but this Santorum campaign robocall simply must be heard to be believed.  Stick with it through the very end:
 


 

"This call is supported by hard-working Democratic men and women, and paid for by Rick Santorum for President."


The Santorum camp has confirmed that this is their handiwork.  Thought experiment: Let's say that exact same spot reversed the names and ended with the words, "paid for by Mitt Romney for President."  I'd imagine the truuuuuue conservative set would be experiencing coniption fits of rage, and justifiably so.  For the last few cycles, the Republican mantra has been some variation of, "we can't allow liberals to choose our nominee."  Here we have a Republican candidate for president -- the guy who's built his entire campaign around the idea that he's the authentic, courageous conservative -- explicitly appealing to liberals and asking them to cross into the GOP primary to swing the results.  Not only that, the thrust of the call is couched in Lefty speak, hitting Romney for opposing the way the auto bailout was structured and executed -- a position that Santorum shares.  Yet his message to Democrats calls Romney's position "a slap in the face to every Michigan worker."  To his credit, Santorum refused to hop aboard the Bain Demagoguery Express when he had the chance. But this is embarrassing.  Michigan Democrats, incidentally, are playing right along with pro-Santorum robocalls of their own:
 

Michigan Democratic strategist Joe DiSano has taken it upon himself to become a leading mischief maker. DiSano says he targeted nearly 50,000 Democratic voters in Michigan through email and a robo call to their homes, asking them to go to the polls Tuesday to vote for Rick Santorum in attempt to hurt Romney. "Democrats can get in there and cause havoc for Romney all the way to the Republican convention," DiSano told CNN. "If we can help set that fire in Michigan, we have a responsibility to do so," he said. In his robo call, DiSano says "Democrats can embarrass Mitt Romney and expose him as the weak frontrunner that he is, by supporting Rick Santorum on Tuesday." He asks the person to "press one…if you are committed to voting for Rick Santorum on Tuesday." DiSano says over the last 7 days or so that he has been working on this, he has gotten some 12,000 commitments from Democratic voters to go to the polls and vote for Santorum.

 
So, if you're keeping score at home, Michigan Democrats and Rick Santorum agree: Stop Mitt Romney.  Are there lessons to be drawn from that reality?  (Also note that the president and his top spokesman each lobbed grenades at Romney today).  The former governor's campaign is spitting mad, blasting out a furious email to reporters accusing Santorum of "wearing the other team's jersey."  The candidate himself appeared on Fox & Friends this morning, working himself up into a lather of high dudgeon:

 

 


I'm not sure this move is a "dirty trick" as much as it's a naked appeal to the opposition to co-opt the Republican process.  Yes, Rush Limbaugh quarterbacked a similar effort in 2008 (Operation Chaos), but I don't recall Hillary's campaign even coming close to embracing Rush's tactics.  Part of Romney's outrageous outrage is genuine, I'm sure, but part of it is likely a product of frustration.  The Michigan native is feeling the heat in his own state, where Santorum appears to be making eleventh hour gains.  The polls are deadlocked.  Tonight is an electoral jump ball.  Romney has a massive lead among early voters, but Santorum is pushing ahead among last-minute deciders -- including, it seems, some Democrats.  There's desperation galore in Michigan: Santorum, for his shameless pandering to Democrats, and Romney, for his over-the-top whining.  I appeared on Fox Business Network last night to discuss the dynamics of the race, including Santorum's bizarre statement that high gas prices caused the housing bubble to burst:
 


Santorum's misappropriation of history is extremely unhelpful, especially in this instance.  Sure, it may score a few points today, but muddying the waters about what really caused 2008's economic collapse hands Democrats a generous favor.  If you're unclear on the facts, I would suggest reading Mark Levin's compelling chapter spelling out the crisis in Liberty and Tyranny (available for free with a subscription to Townhall Magazine).  Not to be outdone, Romney also committed yet another wealth-related gaffe yesterday.  Many Americans like NASCAR, Mitt.  Not many of them are buddies with NASCAR owners.  Sigh.

Oh, and by the way, there's an election in Arizona tonight, too.  Romney is expected to win that race handily, which will net him all 29 of the state's winner-take-all delegates (the state's delegation has been sliced in half for violating RNC rules).  Fairly or not, that outcome will be an afterthought if Romney drops his home state to Santorum.  There's actually a plausible scenario in which Romney wins a substantial majority of Michigan's delegates and all of Arizona's delegates, yet still emerges as tonight's loser in the broader narrative.  How would that work?
 

Speaking to reporters at a Rick Santorum rally here, Anuzis explained that Michigan's delegate apportionment system will give two delegates to the winner of each of the state's 14 congressional districts, and two more given to the candidate with the most overall votes. Based on the campaign's internal data, Anuzis said Romney will win between 10 and 12 of those districts — scoring at least 20-24 of the state's 30 delegates — while Santorum may win the rest. "Romney could potentially win the delegate vote but lose the popular vote," he said, acknowledging that it would not give Romney's campaign the jolt they are hoping for. "But the bottom line is that we're going to be counting delegates," he said, calling a win a win.


There are 59 delegates at stake tonight.  Based on the report above, it's entirely conceivable that Romney could win approximately 50 of those delegates and still limp away, politically wounded. 


Guy Benson

Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Senior Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson.

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography