February 28th, 2012
06:05 PM ET
3 years ago

Michigan mischief: ‘A deal with the devil’

Dearborn Heights, Michigan (CNN) – A longtime liberal radio host asking Democratic listeners to vote for Rick Santorum in Michigan's Republican primary told CNN Tuesday he loves making mischief.

After spending nearly all of his three hour program encouraging Democrats to get out and vote for Santorum Tuesday, Tony Trupiano made no apologies for his behavior.

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"Because Rick Santorum is doing as well as he is doing here in the polls, we could actually take some serious delegates away from him [Mitt Romney]," Trupiano said. "What that really does is it gives America a little more time to get to know these candidates. And don't for a minute tell me we haven't learned a lot more about all of them in the last six weeks. What more can we learn six weeks from now?"

It turns out many Democrats in this state don't need a lot of convincing to engage in this kind of strategic voting.

At a polling station in Dearborn Heights, Crystal Larson said her vote for Santorum made her "feel like I made a deal with the devil."

"Voting for Santorum goes against everything I believe in and everything I've ever stood for in my life and to vote for him takes a lot of guts I think," Larson said.

She said she hadn't received any of the robo calls, but heard about the Democratic effort in the media and decided to vote for Santorum at the last minute.

Gary Zulinski, also voting in Dearborn Heights, said, "I was listening and Democrats were asked to us come and I said 'Why not, this is my way of voting.' That's my right. There are so many people who don't exercise that right. This is my way of saying 'Hey, I've had enough.'"

Democratic stagiest Joe DiSano has been on an active campaign to get Democrats out for Santorum in effort to hurt Romney. He recorded a robo call and has sent tens of thousands of e-mails to Democratic voters encouraging them to go to the polls.

"We are turning them out and feel we can provide a massive jolt and scare to the GOP establishment here in the state and in Washington, DC. When we are done they’ll be taking Pepto Bismol by the gallon at the RNC," DiSano told CNN Tuesday.

"If Romney were able to close the deal, a religious fanatic like Rick Santorum would not have a chance in a state like Michigan. And I'm going to do everything I can to make sure Santorum turns out to be the winner tonight," he said.

DiSano said Democratic Party officials aren't encouraging him, but not discouraging him either.

In fact the state's Democratic Party chairman Mark Brewer said his organization wasn't endorsing the effort, but that crossover votes have a long history in the Wolverine State.

Brewer said the effort was not organized by his group, but that similar efforts have been a tradition in Michigan for decades.

Trupiano, who is working with DiSano to target Democrats ahead of Tuesday's primary vote, said the effort could undermine Mitt Romney in his home state.

DiSano said Tuesday he had 14,000 commitments from Democrats to vote for Santorum, all from the robo calls and e-mails he has sent.

"It's not dirty tricks, it's not our official policy," Brewer said. "We think Democrats should nominate Democrats, Republicans should nominate Republicans, but in Michigan there's been almost a tradition of this for 50 years. People have crossed over."

Some in Michigan credit Democrats for delivering Michigan for John McCain in 2000 in effort to hobble George W. Bush, the Republican frontrunner that year.

Seventeen percent of voters who identified themselves as Democrats voted in the 2000 Republican primary. Eighty five percent of those went for John McCain, who won Michigan by little more than 100,000 votes in a surprising victory over Bush.

Brewer added, "We wish they wouldn't do it but it's gonna happen."

Romney's standing in Michigan was already weak, Brewer said.

"The only reason we are talking about this crossover vote is because Romney is so weak. He should be winning this election today hands down," Brewer said.

Trupiano said the Democratic effort was fair, despite the fact that Tuesday's contest is designed for Republicans to choose their nominee.

"I don't care that this is a Republican primary," Trupiano said. "It's an American election."

The radio host also conceded the Michigan Democrats' effort to injure Romney's standing would likely not take down the candidate entirely.

"I don't think we are going to be able to stop him, but we can certainly hurt him," Trupiano said. "I have no problem doing it and I have no problem admitting that."

Response from listeners has already been strong, Trupiano said.

"This morning it's been call after call after call from listeners saying, 'I'm voting for Rick Santorum,'" he said.

Santorum himself caused a stir by recording his own robo call asking Democrats to vote for him.

Ironically, Trupiano said he actually got that call from Santorum.

"It was a robo call but it was in his voice saying, 'Please vote for me tomorrow.'"

"Did you almost fall over?" CNN asked.

"I did fall over. I was like no way!"

Also see:

Romney's special guest: Kid Rock

Romney hits Santorum robo calls as 'new low' in campaign

Gingrich zeroes in on Santorum in the South

Santorum robo call to Democrats: Send a message to Romney


Filed under: 2012 • Michigan • Rick Santorum
soundoff (276 Responses)
  1. Bob

    All you people saying Santorum is totally unelectable as president – everyone said the same thing about Reagan in 1980, they said the same thing about GW in 2000. Don't underestimate what handlers can do for a candidate once in a general election once he becomes the nominee.

    February 29, 2012 06:37 am at 6:37 am |
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