Democratic mischief in Michigan
February 27th, 2012
04:15 PM ET
10 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 oneā€¦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. Keep Colorado Blue

    Although I'm a Democrat, I would rather for Democrats stay out of this. The Republicans tried these tactics in '08, at Limbaugh's urging. I thought it was dirty politics then, and I would consider it the same now. Let the Republicans fight dirty amongst themselves.

    February 27, 2012 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  2. cigarman

    I sure hope that Santorum wins the rest of the elections for the Republican Nominee. This will show how Stu pid the Republicans really are. Vote Obama in 2012.

    February 27, 2012 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  3. Bill

    I love it – playing the same games the GOP play (everyone remembers Fatman Limbaugh's cry for Republicans to vote in Democratic primary in 2008). I am sure they can not take their own medicine. This is too rich.

    February 27, 2012 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  4. nothing new here

    This is why I am an Independent voter.
    Embarrass Romney – really?? With Santorum of all people? Pot, meet kettle. WOW!!

    Then how about voting for RON PAUL, a FISCAL conservative, a guy that actually believes in civil liberties, and is not playing the "religion card"?

    February 27, 2012 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  5. Truth and Nothing But the Truth

    Election sleaze and Democrats go together like peas and carrots.

    I'm very surprised to see CNN writing this. I had wondered if anybody was going to talk about it. Way to go CNN!

    February 27, 2012 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  6. Orchid333

    I'm a democrat and this does not sit well with me. It's people like this guy who exploit the system and screw things up for "real" people. The GOP candidates are doing a good job at digging their own holes, no need for anyone to help them.

    February 27, 2012 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  7. Art

    I agree it's kind of crappy to do something like that. I do hope Santorum wins, because he'll be so easy to beat in the general since he is so insanely extreme, but I want GOP voters to do on their own volition not because of Democrats. That being said does it really matter who wins really they're all pathetic and unelectable.

    February 27, 2012 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  8. Emmy Skaddittle

    they really don't need any help, both candidates have been saying incredibly stupid things so far, what makes you think they wont continue after they get the nomination

    February 27, 2012 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  9. GI Joe.

    You mean kinda like the GOP did in 2008? Say it ain't so - ha ha ha ha.

    What's fair for the goose is fair for the gander

    February 27, 2012 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  10. Larry in Houston

    If that guy does such a thing – as what this article is saying – that tells you that the voting public isn't informed very well. I mean, are you kidding ? 50,000 people ?? ( fifty thousand )

    ""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""

    That's a heck of a lot of people – that doesn't even know what's going on, regarding voting in Michigan ??

    FIFTY Thousand ?? I find that a little exxaggerated, Certainly nobody can actually Sway that many people. I think. If it's true – then there are a lot of people in Michigan that is living under some type of shell.

    February 27, 2012 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  11. knowndoyen

    So look at this. Dems supporting Santorum. So if Romney is so badly damaged as the Dems claim why are they afraid of him? They have a big fear and the Repuclicans should take notice that Santorum is the Dems guy. They know it will be a cake walk with Santorum. Republican in Michigan should back the one that can win against Obama and according to the Dems that is not Santorum.

    February 27, 2012 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  12. Andrew

    as a democrat i think this just seems dumb....
    even the most minor issue can make obama a scapegoat, so this serves no purpose, and certainly not to openly flaunt it. geez....

    February 27, 2012 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  13. Wobbly Walker

    It's say a lot when they're scared the president can't match up to Republican candidate that they try to get a weaker candidate. Being independent I want the strongest of both parties so I can choose which one I want in the end. And Santorum with his "not visionary", people don't need schooling beyond high school, hippocrite isn't for me.

    February 27, 2012 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  14. Valentina

    That is just plain disgusting! Gov. Romney will prevail tomorrow in Michigan, he will the GOP nominee, and eventually will become the President of the United States in the head-to-head with Obama. It just makes it very clear that Democrats are scared to run against Gov. Romney.

    Romney 2012!

    February 27, 2012 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  15. BeverlyNC

    Sounds like fun to me! Republicans have been lying and cheating and slandering and spreading hate, racism, and passing laws to keep people from voting – so how about some justice served Republican-style – if you are a Democrat – go vote for Santorum and let's keep the Republican self-destruction show going. It's hilarious considering how much they have betrayed the nation, obstructed every effort for jobs, recovery, and programs to help the People. We need to get out and vote in November so we can give President Obama the landslide he deserves after 4 years of Republican do-nothing hate and lies. STILL – President Obama has managed to restore our economy, create 3.7M jobs, save the auto industry, have wonderful foreign policy successes and keep fighting for education while Santorum says people who want an education are "snobs". No, people with education get jobs, can think for themselves, and run from lunatic Republicans like Santorum who live in the 19th century.

    February 27, 2012 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  16. Taran

    For once CNN publishing an article showing democrats true colors. Before the libs start jumping on me, republicans are not much better. I'm just pointing out that CNN usually doesn't print such articles.

    February 27, 2012 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  17. koolman

    Scared of willard? You got to be joking, right?

    February 27, 2012 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  18. PJ/TX

    An open primary just asks for this kind of stuff. "Sleaze", it is not.
    Sleaze is when the Republicans:
    1. Change the voting dates, times and places,
    2. Change the voter ID laws that eliminates their percieved enemies,
    3. Establish redistricting lines that will eliminate those who are minorities, and less likely to vote for them,
    4. Stop counting votes when they reach their desired winner,
    The list is endless.


    February 27, 2012 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  19. Jane

    @Truth and Nothing Butt: But I bet you wet yourself laughing and agreeing with this scheme when RNC Leader Rush Limbaugh suggested it in 2008, right? By the way, we're all still waiting for ONE T&NBT comment to contain just one teeny tiny bit of actual factual backup for your opinions, and not just adolescent name calling. Libtards? Really? What are you, 12?????

    February 27, 2012 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  20. V in Chicago

    This is no different than what the Republicans did in 2008. Do I like it? No. But there is alot about politics and these political games that I don't like. Do I think it's a reflection on the President? No. Again, this is just how the game is played and the Democrats are not doing anything the Republicans haven't done. My only thing is, I don't think President Obama will have a problem beating any of the four lest standing on the Right. There isn't one of them I would vote for over President Obama. Especially that Wacko Santorum!

    February 27, 2012 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  21. tee27

    Keep Colorado Blue ! i understand what you are saying but i don`t think anybody MI should stay out of it. There is no law that say they can`t vote. And here is other reason they should vote, Look how the Republicans Govs in other states are trying to suppress the votes with these crazy laws they have passed.

    February 27, 2012 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  22. lps

    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.

    February 27, 2012 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  23. Nathan

    Anything and everything. Whatever it takes. O 12.

    February 27, 2012 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  24. Dave

    He can spew all the vitriol he wants (by way of his super-pac) but he's just so loathsome as a human being. What a dope he looked like in that red NCAR jacket.

    February 27, 2012 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  25. Rani McBride

    Republicans do it all the time!

    February 27, 2012 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
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