Opinion Brief

Can crossover Democrats sink Mitt Romney in Michigan?

Michigan Democrats can vote in Tuesday's GOP primary, and some Obama loyalists are plotting to embarrass Romney by pushing Santorum to victory

The polls are so close in Michigan's high-stakes Republican presidential primary that anything could happen on Tuesday — including meddling Democrats picking the winner. Michigan allows voters from either party to vote in either primary, and with President Obama running essentially uncontested on the Democratic side, some party activists are urging Democrats and independents to vote for Rick Santorum. Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas is pushing the crossover voting, saying "Operation Hilarity" will help Obama by weakening likely nominee Mitt Romney and prolonging the bruising GOP primary fight. Michigan has a long history of "strategic" cross-party voting — most recently, Rush Limbaugh's 2008 "Operation Chaos" to get Republicans to vote for Hillary Clinton against frontrunner Obama. Can Democrats push Santorum to victory?

Crossover Dems could decide the race: "Hilarity forces don't expect their turnout to be huge," says Evan McMorris-Santoro at Talking Points Memo. "But with a potentially razor-thin margin between Santorum and Romney Tuesday, it doesn't have to be" — 2,000 votes could make the difference. Republicans say they aren't worried, and Democrats aren't officially endorsing the scheme. But progressive activists "think they just might pull this thing off.""How serious is the Democratic crossover vote threat in Michigan?"

"Operation Hilarity" will backfire: The biggest problem with "the Left's efforts to help the Santorum insurgency" is that it only bolster's "Romney's greatest selling point," says Stephen Moore at The Wall Street Journal: He's the Republican most feared by Democrats, and most likely to beat Obama. If this "Daily Kos gimmick" has any effect in Michigan, it will be convincing Republicans who haven't warmed up to Romney that "he's the best candidate still standing.""Democrats for Santorum"

Liberals can at least cause Romney "maximum discomfort": Win or lose, Santorum is still "a convenient vessel to embarrass Romney on the national stage," says Joe DiSano at The Huffington Post. Perceptions matter. "The Romney people have set the bar so high in Michigan through their massive spending" that anything less than a resounding win will be a blow. And at the very least, Democrats can make Mitt squirm by shaving Romney's margin of victory."Michigan Dems, Independents should vote for Santorum in Michigan..."

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