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UW Election Eye 2012

Campaign 2012 through the eyes of UW faculty and students

March 1, 2012 at 8:09 PM

Santorum finds a new cause in Michigan delegate decision

PASCO — Rick Santorum lost a Republican presidential delegate in Michigan today but gained a cause.

Rick Santorum greets supporters following a speech in Pasco on March 1 (Photo by David Domke / UW Election Eye)

Mitt Romney won convincingly in Arizona and narrowly in Michigan in primaries on Tuesday. The outcome in Michigan was particularly damaging for Santorum, who hit the social issues too hard for some and employed widely criticized robo-calls to Democrats to encourage them to vote on his behalf. National polls today show Romney well in front.

Still, it was so close in Michigan, the home state of Romney, that most observers expected a 15-15 delegate tie based on a state-party memo issued weeks earlier.

But Thursday morning the state’s Republican leadership decided that Romney merited one more delegate than Santorum, making it a 16-14 outcome for Romney. Party leadership said that it had erred in its memo, and that it was implementing already-agreed-upon rules.

The Santorum camp jumped on the decision. They went to town in a conference call, calling the decision “political thuggery” and “backroom dealing.” The Romney camp saw it differently, saying that “This is much todo about nothing.”

In a hotel ballroom this evening, before a raucous crowd of several hundred — following on the heels of visits to the area by Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul — Santorum opened his remarks with the delegate decision.

“Romney has all the establishment, all the inside players. All the old boy network. Well, the old boy network went to work today,” Santorum said. “They were embarrassed by the results in Michigan. They called a meeting, and they went back and rewrote the rules, changed the rules.

“I don’t know about you,” he continued. “I may expect that in a banana republic, but you don’t expect that in America. And you don’t expect that from conservatives. Conservatives respect the rule of law. We accept the outcomes win or lose, and we keep coming if we lose. We don’t change the rules.”

And to close the riff: “But maybe since Governor Romney is new to being a conservative, maybe he didn’t understand this.”

The crowd roared. It’s the dynamic Santorum needs to win in Washington and to have a chance in the national primary contest.  The calculus is not difficult to comprehend: if Santorum can channel the Tea Party insurgency of 2010 and run against The Establishment, he’s got a chance.

He knows it. In his speeches his voice rises when he talks about being an underdog.

He closed his speech by asking folks to stick around a while at the caucuses Saturday, to influence delegate selection. In his words, “We know that delegates matter.”

The next ones at stake are Saturday in Washington.

Comments | Topics: Caucuses, caucuses, delegates

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