Thundering down the Michigan Republican Primary backstretch shoulder to shoulder, Romney and Santorum finished in a dead heat, earning 15 of Michigan's 30 delegates each. The GOP then voted Romney both "at-large" delegates. Was it "political thuggery?"
Michigan has 14 congressional districts, with two delegates per district. In addition, there are two "at-large" delegates, which it appeared should be awarded proportionately. Since no other candidate got the required minimum 15% of votes, and the split between the two leaders was only three points, each was initially awarded one at-large delegate, as was the understanding of all parties up to that time. And then it was Wednesday evening, nearly 24 hours after the final vote tally... and the rules changed. The State GOP Rules Committee decided that not enough ridicule had come from Romney almost losing his home state in the Republican Primary, and voted to award both at-large delegates to Romney.
To formalize the rule as something of a "correction," and certainly not a change, "Saul Anuzis, a former state party chairman and Romney backer who sits on the credentials committee, said in a statement Thursday that 'regrettably, there was an error in the memo drafted and sent to the respective campaigns' about how the delegates were to be awarded and that the original plan approved by the panel earlier this month was to award the two delegates to the winner of the statewide vote." The excuse was that, statistical dead heat in the Michigan Republican Primary or not, Romney had actually won the state by 32,000 votes (3% more than Santorum), and had, therefore, won both delegates. Sending that announcement must have depleted the total allocation of hubris and chutzpah for the Rules Committee for the rest of the year.
The Santorum camp was quick to respond, calling the move "political thuggery" and calling on Romney to repudiate the vote. Romney also responded quickly, saying that he, "...abides by the decision of the Michigan Republican Party and is 'now focused on the upcoming contests' on Super Tuesday." But his some-time surrogate, former Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox, also a member of the Rules Committee voted against the change, stating that a rule is a rule and the change didn't pass the smell test.
Santorum has threatened a lawsuit, but he would likely be better advised to concentrate on Super Tuesday. After all, one delegate out of 1,100 isn't likely to make or break his candidacy.