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Santorum accuses Romney of rigging Michigan primary

By Business Insider
Friday, March 2, 2012 12:01 EDT
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Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R). Photo: Wikimedia commons.
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By Grace Wyler

The Michigan Republican Party awarded Mitt Romney an official delegate victory today, granting him 16 of the state’s 30 delegates just one day after the tally showed Romney and Rick Santorum tied with 15 delegates each.

The Santorum campaign is now accusing Romney’s team of using “political thuggery” to “rig” the delegate count. 

The issue is over the allocation of two “at-large” delegates: Romney and Santorum each won seven of the Michigan’s 14 Congressional districts, splitting those delegates 14-14. The remaining delegates were originally supposed to be awarded proportionally based on the popular vote, which would have given each candidate one more delegate. But on Thursday, Michigan Republican Party officials voted to change the rules and give both at-large delegates to Romney. 

The Santorum campaign basically blew a gasket, calling the vote a “backroom deal” brokered by Romney supporters and “people affiliated with the Romney campaign.”

“There’s just no way this is happening,” Santorum communications director Hogan Gidley said in a statement. “We’ve all heard rumors that Mitt Romney was furious that he spent a fortune in his home state, had all the political establishment connections and could only manage a tie Rick Santorum. But we never thought the Romney campaign would try to rig the outcome of an election by changing the rules after the vote. This kind of back room dealing political thuggery just cannot and should not happen in America.”

In a last-minute conference call with reporters tonight, Santorum campaign advisors said they were sending a memo asking the Republican National Committee to “immediately intervene.”

“We’re probably less concerned with the one delegate that happened to move and more concerned that any entity involved in this would go and do something so anti-to the American voter,” Santorum strategist John Brabender said on the call. “To me the desperation is somebody who lost the state, then tried to change the rules…It goes right to heart of character.” 

It appears that Santorum’s campaign expected something like this would occur. Campaign officials were quick to announce the delegate tie on Wednesday, before state party officials met to determine the formal tally.

On a conference call with reporters yesterday, Brabender said the campaign was “trying to avoid another Iowa.” 

To refresh, Santorum eventually won the Iowa caucuses, but the results weren’t announced until two weeks after state party officials declared Romney the winner. Iowa Republican Party Chairman Matt Strawn, a Romney supporter, stepped down over the debacle.

There is no evidence that the Romney campaign has directly interfered in Iowa, or any other state vote count. In Michigan, party officials deny that Thursday’s vote was meant to help Romney and the campaign has dismissed Santorum’s accusations.

At the same time, Romney has a powerful incentive to win his home state, where he spent millions of dollars to beat Santorum. Moreover, in a tight race for 1,144 convention delegates, even one delegate is worth a fight.  

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