Democratic mischief in Michigan
February 27th, 2012
04:15 PM ET
11 years ago

Democratic mischief in Michigan

Washington (CNN) – It's no secret that most Democratic strategists consider Mitt Romney the GOP contender who poses the biggest threat to President Obama. It's also no secret that Michigan, the state where Romney grew up, is a must win for him.

Combine those two dynamics, add in the fact that any registered voter is allowed to vote in Michigan's open primary, and you get a recipe for Democrats to make mischief.

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Michigan Democratic strategist Joe DiSano has taken it upon himself to become a leading mischief maker.

DiSano says he targeted nearly 50,000 Democratic voters in Michigan through email and a robo call to their homes, asking them to go to the polls Tuesday to vote for Rick Santorum in attempt to hurt Romney.

"Democrats can get in there and cause havoc for Romney all the way to the Republican convention," DiSano told CNN.

"If we can help set that fire in Michigan, we have a responsibility to do so," he said.

Santorum is statistically tied with Romney in Michigan polls, and has the greatest potential of all the Republican candidates to beat Romney.

In his robo call, DiSano says "Democrats can embarrass Mitt Romney and expose him as the weak frontrunner that he is, by supporting Rick Santorum on Tuesday."

He asks the person to "press one…if you are committed to voting for Rick Santorum on Tuesday."

DiSano says over the last 7 days or so that he has been working on this, he has gotten some 12,000 commitments from Democratic voters to go to the polls and vote for Santorum.

He says the Michigan Democratic Party has not endorsed his efforts, but they haven't asked him to stop either.

DiSano insists he is a "lone wolf" in this quest to hurt Romney, bearing what he calls a minimal cost, himself.

He got the names from voters rolls collected from past and current Democratic clients in the state.

Santorum's campaign, meanwhile, confirmed it was also using a robo call urging Michigan Democrats to cross over and vote for Santorum on Tuesday.

Michigan Democratic Chairman Mark Brewer insists to CNN that the party is not actively encouraging so-called Democratic crossover voting, but says Michigan Democrats have a history of doing so.

"I fully expect that will happen," Brewer said.

He also called chatter on Democratic blogs and website pushing Michigan Democrats to vote for Santorum "encouraging."

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.

The DailyKos, a leading liberal blog, started a campaign earlier this month to get its readers to vote in open primaries, beginning with Michigan.

"The longer this thing drags out, the more unpopular the Republican presidential pretenders become," says the blog.

"Mitt Romney has been unable to stem the bleeding despite his tens of millions. Just imagine Santorum, with the far more radical record and a continued inability to raise real money. It's a no-brainer!"

Still, Michigan Republican party spokesman Matt Frendeway downplayed the idea of Democratic voters having a real impact on the states GOP primary contest.

"I don't think this will move the needle at all," Frendeway told CNN. "I think it speaks volumes, that a Democrat is severely concerned about the weakness of the president, if they're trying to organize people to vote for the so-called 'weakest candidate' or cause mischief."

He also called the DiSano's claim that 12,000 Democratic voters would come out for Rick Santorum, "an inflated, inaccurate number."

DiSano responded that "GOP insiders will do or say anything to protect Mitt Romney."

"Whether I turn out 20 voters or 20,000 voters tomorrow the fact remains that Romney is badly damaged and in the fight of his life," said DiSano.

Romney's campaign began fundraising off the robe calls Monday night, sending an email asking supporters to donate and "help Mitt fight back against the Democrats' dirty tactics."

"This is politics at its worst," the email said. "It doesn't get much more pathetic."

- Follow Dana on Twitter: @DanaBashCNN

Also see:

Gingrich tells evangelicals: 'We need to stand up for ourselves'

Limbaugh front and center in pro-Santorum mailer

Romney: 'I can't be perfect'

Graham, McCain predict big primary night for Romney

Filed under: 2012 • Democrats • Michigan • Mitt Romney
soundoff (47 Responses)
  1. nothing new here


    This could backfire. The democrats have the high ground on wanting clean elections why blow it on a stupid ploy. While this might make Mitt Romney look bad they run the risk of alienating Independents.
    I applaud this comment!!!!

    It is these political shenanigans that makes it more difficult to have clean elections, and elect politicians that will actually work together to serve the best interests of the American people.

    February 27, 2012 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  2. 2Reply

    How low will the Democratic party go is the real question!

    February 27, 2012 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  3. Increase Powers

    The problem here is the open primary rule in Michigan, and a lot of other states. It allows people not registered ina party to vote in that party's primary. I think that's wrong. But as long as it's allowed, what's to prevent people from voting strategically? And it's somehow right: the ignorant, bigoted fundamentalist nutjob Santorum is, indeed, the candidate that best represents what today's Republican Party stands for. They deserve Santorum. And Frothy Santorum too!

    February 27, 2012 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  4. Truth and Nothing But the Truth

    Republicans don't have to do this... Democrats always select the loser in their primaries. Only when the LSM actively promotes the Demorcat candidate does he have a chance of winning.

    February 27, 2012 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  5. R

    "...and you get a recipe for Democrats to make mischief."

    Right, because it's all just fun and games for both Democrats and Republicans. I am so disgusted with both parties right now it's not even funny.

    February 27, 2012 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  6. Patricia

    This is so characteristic of democrats – not all – just some of them.
    Why is it they are so afraid of so-called "weak" candidate Mitt Romney beating Obama? Of course, Santorum will be easier to beat. Romney keeps plodding along, winning states,
    "running the gauntlet" from media and everybody else, and he has lots of money to help get
    him to the finish line. If he DOES win Michigan and Arizona, will anyone have anything good
    to say about that – I doubt it.

    February 27, 2012 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  7. WhereIsPalin

    Those wicked democrats. Will they stop at nothing? I can't imagine any republican doing something like this.

    February 27, 2012 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  8. Indy

    This does seem a bit sleazy and I don't think Romney can win Michigan anyways so not sure if this is needed, but Republicans are the King of sleaze and have done everything in their power to destroy the economy including ranting about starting a war with Iran knowing full well it would drive up the price of gas and hurt every middle class American and small business so it is hard to feel any empathy towards them for the voting process in Michigan

    February 27, 2012 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  9. Tony in Maine

    I'm sure none of those upright holier than anyone Republicans would never consider anything like that. They just do things like put one voting machine in a black precinct and station 6 foot 5 inch troopers at the door doing their best 1000 yard stare to intimidate a population for whom police harassment is a daily event. Oh no, not those fine Christian republicans.

    As a Democrat, I would not take part in that sort of BS, but were I a REpublican, I certainly wouldn't start tossing rocks lest I break my own glass house.

    February 27, 2012 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  10. Jake

    don't stoop Democrats! we expect (and wish) the GOP would play fair, so we must set the example!

    February 27, 2012 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  11. Independent from FL

    Two wrongs do not make a right. It will backfire.

    February 27, 2012 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  12. Dana Blankenhorn

    John Heileman's piece at New York Magazine is interesting and something to reflect on at this juncture. He suggests that after the GOP loses in November it will turn against the faction represented by the winner. If that "winner" is Romney, the party could go into the wilderness for decades. If Santorum, the party might wake up and come back strong. In light of what Democrats are alleged to be doing here, I offer a link.

    February 27, 2012 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  13. Malory Archer

    Right, because the tightie righties would NEVER stoop to such tactics! One thing any casual observer can tell you is when the rethugs are accusing others of behaving badly, it's because THEY themselves have done it so they ASSUME that everybody else is doing it too. That's called projection. Additionally, all of the reports about little ricky's lead in Michigan are based on polling registered republicans, so he would win with or without the benefit of an open primary. It is funny to watch the wingnuts give so much power to the Dems though. 😉

    February 27, 2012 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  14. Darw1n

    Ummm, didn't the republicans do this with Alvin Greene in the SC primary two years ago?

    February 27, 2012 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  15. Bob

    Rush Limpdick and Operation Kaos.

    It's cool when the King of the Repukes wants it, huh? Not so funny when someone does it to you.

    February 27, 2012 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  16. Fla Pete

    Nothing like derailing a republican sideshow,hey Romney.Dems got one up on ya,must be those lousy labor unions.Too bad,Soo sad,how a robocall is smarter then a republican candidate.Try your superpac to stop this one,LOL...

    February 27, 2012 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  17. sonny chapman

    And where did those evil Dems. get the idea to do this ? The kind & getnle Rush Limbaugh advocating doing this between Hillary & Obama in 2008 !

    February 27, 2012 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  18. Steve

    As a Democrat, I voted in the Republican primary in Michigan in 2008. I voted for Romney, as the Republican I'd mind the least winning the national election. He seemed to be the least likely to do damage, knowing his history. Also, voting in the Democratic Primary gave us the choice of Hillary Clinton, Dennis Kucinich, or "None Of The Above".

    This year, I'll be voting for Santorum. Not because I think he'd be the easiest to beat in November, but because I dislike Romney that much. Everything that he's said over the last few years has just made him look like the biggest pandering ******* around. At least with Santorum, you know where he stands on the issues. He also seems to care at least a little bit for the average person. You can tell that Romney hates the middle and lower classes.

    February 27, 2012 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  19. The Greedy Old Pigs declared class war on US!

    "Election sleaze and Democrats go together like peas and carrots."

    My what a short memory you have. The alleged "brains" of your GOBP deathcult, Rush Dumbo, was pushing this exact same stunt in 2008. Guess we can add recent political history to the long list of things you know nothing about.

    February 27, 2012 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  20. Jules

    Well, you know if you don't have the Supreme Court in your pocket, you have to find another way.

    February 27, 2012 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  21. Rudy NYC

    Didn't Wisconsin Republicans pull some mischief of their own last summer in their recall elections of state legislators? Didn't they run phony candidates against the Democratic challengers, forcing the state to conduct primary elections on the Democratic side? What about that mystery guy [ I think his name was Green ] who ran for the SC Senate seat on the Democratic ticket, bumping the Democratic Party's choice out of the running?

    February 27, 2012 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  22. Truth and Nothing But the Truth

    He suggests that after the GOP loses in November
    Very objective and unbiased commentary I see. What was his take on the far more likely scenario of the Democrats losing the Senate and Whitehouse?

    February 27, 2012 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
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