Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Look, the robocall stuff was over the line

After Romney's wins in Michigan and Arizona last night, the punditry world is abuzz with speculation on what this means. As usual. Romney's margin of victory--3 points--in Michigan was pretty small. And given that Michigan was a kind of "home state" for Romney, it begs the question, were there any significant numbers of Democrats that crossed over to vote for Santorum?

Because there were a number of attempts to make this happen--deliver Michigan to Santorum via Democratic votes--starting with "Operation Hilarity" from the clowns at Daily Kos. They're even soliciting donations to run ad campaigns on Facebook for the effort. In Michigan proper, there were localized efforts to achieve the same end from people like Tony Trupiano, host of a progressive talk-radio show in Detroit, and from Joe DiSano, a Democratic campaign consultant in Michigan. The latter used robocalls and mailers to convince Democrats in Michigan to vote for Santorum.

All is fair in politics, right? The Daily Kos effort mirrors--not unsurprisingly, given their lack of creativity--the Rush Limbaugh-promoted "Operation Chaos" in 2008. The goal there was to extend the Democratic Primary by having Republicans cross over to vote for Hillary Clinton, when it seemed that Obama was beginning to pull away.

Did it work? Some claim that Clinton's victories in the Ohio, Indiana and Texas primaries were because of Republican crossover, but it's a difficult thing to prove definitively, one way or the other. I think the effects of Operation Chaos were minimal, at best. Similarly, I doubt Operation Hilarity will go anywhere. It's a fun game to play, however. Limbaugh garnered a great deal of press on the matter and no doubt, so will the Daily Kos and people like Trupiano.

But here's a legitimate question to ask: did Hillary Clinton embrace Operation Chaos? Did she attempt to use it to her advantage? Not that I remember. Santorum--in contrast--did exactly that by unleashing his own program of robocalls in Michigan, calls that encouraged Democrats to come vote for him:
"Michigan Democrats can vote in the Republican primary on Tuesday. Why is it so important?" the voice on the call says. "Romney supported the bailouts for his Wall Street, billionaire buddies, but opposed the auto bailouts. That was a slap in the face to every Michigan worker, and we're not going to let Romney get away with it." 
The call urges listeners to "send a loud message" to Romney by voting for Santorum, even though Santorum, too, opposed the auto industry bailout. It ends with the line: "This call is supported by hard-working Democratic men and women and paid for by Rick Santorum for president."
It reall doesn't make a lot of sense, the idea that voting for Santorum--if one is a Dem--would send a message to Romney. The Santorum campaign defended the calls, arguing that they were designed to turn out the so-called "Reagan Democrats" for Santorum. Rush Limbaugh--for his part--supported the action by Santorum, accepting the idea that the targets were these Reagan Democrats:
“There are, and particularly in Michigan, there are a lot of Reagan Democrats who are more socially conservative than there are moderate Republicans,” he said, according to a transcript of his show. “And it’s an open primary state, Santorum’s appealing to them. There are a lot of Reagan Democrats, and Obama has said he’s not going to go after those voters.”
With all due respect to Rush, the gist of Santorum's robocall doesn't really support that interpretation. Santorum didn't ask Democrats to vote for him because of his stance on social issues, he asked Democrats to vote for him based on class-warfare rhetoric, nothing more.

And either way, the reality is that the Santorum campaign had to be aware of the efforts by groups like Daily Kos to extend the race. If he really had the kind of principles he claims to have, he would have distanced himself from that kind of effort, if not openly condemned it. But he didn't. He embraced it. Which is--again--exactly not what Hillary Clinton did.


It's a sad day when a Clinton's ethics are superior to yours. Santorum needs to take a hard look at himself in the mirror and admit that he crossed a line.

Cheers, all.

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