wpostServer: http://css.washingtonpost.com/wpost2
Posted at 05:50 PM ET, 02/29/2012

Mitt Romney camp: Santorum ‘cheated’ in Michigan

This story has been updated.

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney’s (R) camp claimed Wednesday that former senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) “cheated” in Michigan by launching robocalls encouraging Democrats to vote in Tuesday’s Republican primary.


Former senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.). (Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)
“We saw that Rick Santorum cheated, but he couldn’t cheat enough to win,” Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio), a Romney surrogate, said on a conference call with reporters Wednesday afternoon.

He added that Santorum “should agree to give back” the percentage of Michigan’s 30 national convention delegates that he won with the aide of “Democratic votes that would never support him for president.”

Romney won Michigan 41 percent to 38 percent – although Santorum’s camp argued in a conference call with reporters Wednesday afternoon that when it comes to the delegate count, the two candidates are actually tied because delegates are awarded district-by-district, not according to the statewide vote.

According to exit polls, about 9 percent of Michigan Republican primary voters were Democrats, many of whom voted as part of a coordinated effort dubbed “Operation Hilarity” aimed at boosting Santorum’s chances in the GOP race.

Tuesday’s 9 percent Democratic turnout was higher than the 7 percent of Michigan GOP primary voters who identified as Democrats four years ago but lower than the 14 percent who comprised the GOP primary electorate in 2000, when Democrats made an even more-concerted effort to vote in the Republican nominating contest.

Romney’s camp had already been taking aim at Santorum for wooing Democrats ever since reports of the robocalls first surfaced, and Wednesday’s conference call suggests that the campaign has no plan to relent in its effort to cast Santorum as working in tandem with national Democrats.

Santorum’s courting of Democrats “makes me feel like throwing up, and unlike Santorum, I’m not going to regret what I just did,” former New Hampshire governor John H. Sununu (R) said Wednesday on the Romney call, a reference to Santorum’s widely-panned comment about John F. Kennedy’s 1960 religion speech.

Santorum “in essence was echoing the call from Michael Moore, and there is no way Michael Moore appeals to Reagan Democrats,” Sununu said, referring to the liberal filmmaker and Michigan native who encouraged Wolverine State Democrats to back Santorum on Tuesday.

Another Romney backer, Idaho Superintendent of Public Schools Tom Luna, said that Santorum “decided to play for the other team” on Tuesday and was “being used by President Obama.”

“If he knows it, then shame on him, and if he doesn’t, then he’s just naive,” Luna said of Santorum.

Also on Wednesday’s call for Romney were Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens, Alaska Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell, and Former United States Treasurer Bay Buchanan.

Asked by a reporter whether the Romney camp would prefer that Democrats not vote in GOP primaries, Buchanan said that Romney’s campaign would “like to see the base of our party grow,” but does not want “Obama supporters coming in just to wreak havoc.”

Santorum’s campaign responded to the call with a press release under the header, “Mitt Romney says stop talking to Democrats -- Mitt Romney should stop being a Democrat.”

“Rick Santorum knows that to defeat Barack Obama we must do two things: excite the conservative base and appeal to Reagan Democrats,” Hogan Gidley, Santorum’s national communications director, said in a statement. “After running for President twice, it’s clear that Mitt Romney can’t do either.”

Gidley added that “the fact that Mitt Romney is whining that hard working, blue collar Democrats decided to vote in Michigan’s open primary is laughable.”

“Not only did Mitt Romney boast of voting in the 1992 Massachusetts Democrat primary, argue that he didn’t want to ‘return to Reagan-Bush,’ but he has spent nearly his entire political career acting like a Democrat -- that is until he made the calculated decision to run for President,” he said.

By  |  05:50 PM ET, 02/29/2012

 
Read what others are saying
     

    © 2011 The Washington Post Company