29 February 2012 7:59 PM
Santorum campaign claims Romney win in Michigan was really a draw
In the annals of campaign spin, it will go down as a pretty good try. More than 12 hours after Rick Santorum telephoned Mitt Romney to offer what a senior Romney aide described as a “very gracious” concession in Michigan, Team Santorum tried to take it back.
Citing “anecdotal & empirical data that is being shared with us” but which should be checked out by reporters, Santorum’s top strategist John Brabender explained during a chaotic conference call that Michigan rules meant that delegates there would be split 15 apiece and Santorum had won in 63 out of 83 counties in Michigan.
This meant we should “move it from a win for Mitt Romney to a tie race”, Brabender argued, describing last night as “what can only be seen as a disaster for the Romney campaign”. Pressed on whether he was right about his numbers, he responded: “Accuracy, that’s sort of your job.”
Brabender also lambasted Romney for his “hyprocrisy” in slamming Santorum for initiating robocalls to Democratic voters urgiung them to turn out in the Republican primary when Romney himself had voted for Paul Tsongas, a liberal Democrat, in the Massachusetts primary in 1992. Fair enough but not especially relevant.
The call, perhaps the most memorable campaign conference call since Obama counsel Bob Bauer crashed one held by the Hillary Clinton campaign in 2008, was plagued by technical difficulties. For much of it, it sounded like your radio does when twiddling the dial in the early hours of the morning during a long drive through the Mid-West.
There are a few problems with Team Santorum’s contention, quite apart from the fact that we don’t yet know whether any of their numbers are accurate.
Firstly, Santorum conceded Michigan to Romney on Tuesday night. As Al Gore found out in 2000, conceding a race and then unconceding it doesn’t usually work that well and make you come across as a whiner. Remember those “Sore Loserman” campaign buttons in 2000?
Secondly, Romney won all 29 delegates in Arizona on Tuesday. No one paid much attention to that because Michigan, as Romney’s native state, was the real test. So it wasn’t about delegates – it was about winning Michigan.
If it was really about delegates then even if Michigan delegates are shared then Romney won by 44 to 15 delegates on the night. Not really a disaster. Or was it supposedly only about winning delegates in Michigan? That’s like re-inventing the rules of cricket after your team’s been bowled out to say that catches don’t count.
Thirdly, Santorum has a problem in the spin wars that if Democrats hadn’t been able to vote then Romney would have won by eight points (and presumably got some more delegates). Those were the rules – Democrats could vote – but it was a political own goal to get caught doing those robocalls.
Fourthly, today’s spin was all a bit late. To change the narrative of an election result, you need to get your spin in early. If Santorum had called Romney to say, “Well done Mittens, congratuations on fighting me to a draw” and then proclaimed the same thing on the stage then he might have had a chance of getting some reporters to pause.
But by midday today everyone had pretty much moved on from Michigan, in many cases literally.
As one Romney adviser quipped: “What’s the next call on? How Area 51 lost Arizona for Santorum?