Earlier today we were speculating about the impact of Democrats participating in the Republican primary in Michigan. Would Democrats vote for Rick Santorum as part of a dirty trick in order to promote a less electable Republican, as Mitt Romney seemed to be claiming? Or would these crossovers be legitimate Reagan Democrats who like Santorum’s stands on social issues as well as expressing working class disdain for a swell like Romney? Or would, as Romney hopes, more moderate independents and Democrats prefer him to a candidate whose views on abortion, gays and contraception are considered extreme?
We don’t know the answer to that question but it is clear that whatever their motivation, Michigan Democrats and independents are going to have a disproportionate impact on a crucial Republican contest. The New York Times reports exit polls show that 10 percent of those voting today in Michigan are Democrats. It also says that irrespective of party affiliation, six in ten consider themselves conservative while 30 percent say they are very conservative and another thirty percent say they are moderate. In theory that is a picture of an electorate that might be more sympathetic to Santorum.
The Times also raises an interesting point about the dirty trick allegation. The paper’s Alison Kopicki points out that Romney claimed to have voted in the Democratic Presidential Primary in Massachusetts in 1992. Romney, at that time an independent, has said he cast a ballot for Paul Tsongas because he was the weakest Democrat in the race which is the same thing he is accusing Democrats of doing today. He’d better hope that most of those Democrats voting today are not making an effort to help their party beat the GOP.