Did Romney Really Manipulate the Michigan Primary Rules in His Favor?

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
March 2 2012 9:58 AM

Say FRAUD! To M!ch!gan

What is it about 2012 that makes state Republican parties totally unable to hold elections? Oh, fine, some of them have pulled it off. Michigan, though... Michigan has created a scandal out of nothing, either by accident (likely) or in a plot to aid Mitt Romney (possible).

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

The story: Weeks before the primary, state Republicans voted on delegate rules and decided to award only 2 of the state's 30 delegates to the statewide winner. (The state was punished, and robbed of delegates, for holding an early primary). In the memo issued after this, Republicans wrote that

candidates that receive 15% of the statewide vote total will be allocated delegates proportionally
starting with the candidate who wins the majority of the statewide votes.
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Seemed clear enough. The media projected a delegate split between Santorum and Romney based on that rule. And then the state GOP ruled, 4-2, that the rule was not the rule. Saul Anuzis is a Michigan GOP committeeman, twice unsuccessful candidate for RNC chairman, who endorsed Romney a while back. His explanation: The idea of a delegate split came out of a botched memo.

Regrettably, there was an error in the memo drafted and sent to the respective campaigns. There were questions raised at the time the memo was drafted as to whether the legal language used was accomplishing the goal of the committee and we were advised that it was, but now it is clear that the memo did not properly communicate the intent of the committee. The email traffic surrounding the drafting of the memo in early February makes explicitly clear what the intent of the committee was.

Oh, well, if the e-mail traffic said so! The Santorum campaign, perfectly sensibly, has responded by raising all hell. "We never thought the Romney campaign would try to rig the outcome of an election by changing the rules after the vote," said campaign spokesman J. Hogan Gildley. "This kind of back room dealing political thuggery just cannot and should not happen in America." Last night, the Santorum campaign held a press call with state surrogates to remind the media just how heinous the Romney campaign was. "You play by the rules!" said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. "You don't come through the back door."

To recap:

- The states that have had some horrible vote count problems: Iowa, Nevada, Maine, Michigan

- The states that haven't had problems: New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida, Minnesota, Colorado, Arizona

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

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