‘Operation Hilarity’ fizzles

at 06:30 AM ET, 02/29/2012

Rick Santorum’s effort to woo Democratic voters in Michigan failed.

While there was much hype about Democrats voting for Santorum as results began to trickle in early Tuesday night — in large part thanks to some helpful nudging from big-name Democrats in the days leading up to Tuesday’s primary — a closer look at the numbers show it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.

Don’t get us wrong: There was plenty of evidence that Democrats turned out to vote for Santorum over Mitt Romney.

Exit polls showed 9 percent of voters identified themselves as Democrats and 12 percent identified themselves as strong opponents of the tea party — a dead giveaway that their sympathies probably don’t lie with the Republican Party.

That’s higher than in any contest in the presidential race so far. And among both of these groups, Santorum did well, taking about half of the vote.

But looking at it another way, that haul isn’t terribly novel.

First, the 9 percent of Democrats voting was just slightly more than it was in 2008. In that election, 7 percent of Republican primary voters self-identified as Democrats, even though there was a Democratic primary held the same day (though it should be noted that President Obama wasn’t on the ballot)

Given that there was no competitive Democratic primary on Tuesday, it’s not surprising that more Democrats would take part in the GOP primary. But the difference isn’t even statistically significant compared to four years ago.

Second, the effort paled in comparison to the last time there was a real campaign to get Democrats to cross over.

While Democrats voting for Santorum comprised roughly 5 percent of the vote on Tuesday, in the 2000 race, Democrats supporting John McCain made up about 14 percent of voters overall.

Democrats may have netted Santorum about 3 or 4 percent of the vote on Tuesday, but they netted McCain about 12 percent and actually gave him his margin of victory in 2000.

If Santorum had the same kind of support among Democrats that McCain had, he likely would have won on Tuesday. But the efforts quite simply didn’t compare.

Third, while Santorum’s robocalls targeting Democrats tried to fire them up about Romney’s opposition to the auto bailout, the polls show that didn’t really register either.

In the end, Romney did even better among supporters of the auto bailout than he did among opponents, taking about 40 percent of the vote in each demographic and beating Santorum in both as well.

All of it points to a crossover effect that was certainly real, but wasn’t all that exceptional — at least for Michigan, a state with a studied history of crossover voting.

Snowe fallout: There’s a new high-profile Senate race on the map thanks to Sen. Olympia Snowe’s (R-Maine) decision Tuesday to retire.

And with the filing deadline just two weeks away, candidates can afford to waste no time.

Within a couple hours of Snowe’s announcement, Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine) said he was “humbled by the outpouring of encouragement” he had received to run for the seat.

Meanwhile, Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) is the subject of a drafting movement by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.

Huckabee to host forum on Saturday: There may be no debates on the schedule, but all the candidates will gather at least one more time.

The New York Times reported Tuesday that Mike Huckabee will be hosting a presidential forum on Saturday, and every candidate but Ron Paul has agreed to participate.

The forum is planned for Saturday evening in Ohio and will be broadcast on Fox News.

Earlier in the day, the candidates will compete in the Washington state caucuses.

Fixbits:

Newt Gingrich gets another super PAC.

Paul denies speculation that he’s being nice to Romney in order to further the political career of his son, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).

The White House denies that President Obama was campaigning in his speech Tuesday to the United Auto Workers — despite the fact that it sounded a lot like a campaign speech.

Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.) endorses Romney in Saturday’s Washington state caucuses.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) signs a bill lifting his state’s one-gun-per-month purchasing limit.

A new automated Rasmussen poll shows Republicans in good shape in the open Wisconsin Senate race.

Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) gets a primary challenge from former New York mayoral candidate Bill Thompson’s ex-wife.

Must-reads:

In Ohio, fierce primary fight may hurt GOP’s chances for the fall” — Amy Gardner, Washington Post

Santorum’s scrappy rhetoric a campaign staple” — Rosalind S. Helderman, Washington Post

Longest-serving Senate Republican in fight of his life” — Nick Carey, Reuters

 
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