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ThePlumLIneGS whorunsgov plumline
Posted at 04:36 PM ET, 02/28/2012

Santorum: Yup, I’m reaching out to Reagan Democrats

As you’ve probably heard, Mitt Romney has been accusing Rick Santorum of a “dirty trick,” because the latter launched a robocall encouraging Dems to vote for him in today’s open Michigan primary. Romney opined that the Santorum move was “outrageous,” insisting: “we don’t want Democrats deciding who our nominee’s going to be.”

On the trail today, Santorum unabashedly proclaimed that, yes, he’s reaching out to Democrats — Reagan Democrats:

At a rally with several hundred supporters, Santorum said his message of increasing energy production and revitalizing manufacturing was one that would appeal to conservative Democrats — hopefully those in Michigan, where voters were going to the polls on Tuesday. It’s a message that will also carry well into blue-collar Ohio, where Santorum has already done multiple events ahead of the state’s March 6 primary.
“It’s a message that is playing well, hopefully very well, today in Michigan. And it’s a message — it’s a message that we’re selling to not just Republicans, but Republicans and Democrats — Reagan Democrats, who are the key for us winning Ohio, and Pennsylvania, and Michigan back in the day when Ronald Reagan represented a Republican Party that stood for all of the values that made this country great,” Santorum said.

Putting aside Romney’s own history of boasting about crossover voting — which Jed Lewison documents in a funny video today — this raises a question: How wise is it for Romney to criticize Santorum’s outreach to Dems?

One of the key questions being hashed out in the GOP primary is: Which candidate is more electable in a general election? Electability will hinge heavily on who can win blue collar whites in struggling Rust Belt swing states, some of whom are Democrats. Santorum’s case for the robocalls — and for the outreach to Reagan Dems, as in his speech today — is that Republicans need to win support from these voters in order to win in November.

Obviously the case against Santorum’s robocalls is that he’s trying to get Dems to vote in bad faith — to vote against Romney only so Dems will have an easier time in the general election. And Santorum’s call will likely encourage some of that type of voting.

But if Santorum does manage to win tonight, can’t he point to this episode to strengthen his case? He can say: “I won partly because I successfully reached out to the kind of Democrats we need to win in November, something Romney insisted we shouldn’t do. And they came out to vote against Romney. What does that tell you about Romney’s fitness for a general election? Why shouldn’t we reach out to these voters?”

It still seems obvious that Romney is the more electable Republican, but that doesn’t seem like a terrible place for Santorum to be.

By  |  04:36 PM ET, 02/28/2012

 
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