Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Uh-Oh: Operation Hilarity Might Work

Yesterday, although I mentioned Operation Hilarity (a Daily Kos led attempt to get Michigan Democrats to turn out for the presumed weaker candidate Rick Santorum), I pretty much promised myself I wouldn't do an actual piece on it. This was because (a) it's kinda in poor taste and (b) these kinds of things almost never make any sort of difference whatsoever (although ... maybe I'm misinformed). In any event, as of yesterday Nate Silver was predicting Romney at a healthy 80-90% chance of victory in the Wolverine State.

That was yesterday.
This is today (Romney's Michigan chances from InTrade).

It's a ski slope.

However, the story for Operation Hilarity is not that the local state Democrats are asking for Dems to go vote in the open primary for Rick Santorum. Oh, it's true that with predicted razor thin margins even a bit of Democratic turn-out could make the difference--but that's not the story.


The story is that Rick Santorum himself is urging Democrats to get out the vote--for him. He's using Robo-Calls aimed at Democrats to "get out the vote" and skew the election!
Romney had accused Santorum of resorting to dirty tricks on the eve of Tuesday's primary. Speaking to Fox News, Romney said Santorum's tactic, which is legitimate but could be regarded as underhand, marked a new low in the campaign.
"Senator Santorum did something today which I think is deceptive and a dirty trick," Romney said.
An influx of Democratic votes could make the difference in a tight contest. Polls show Romney and Santorum neck-and-neck, with Santorum enjoying a late surge.
You can hear the call here--note that it does not identify itself as a pro-Rick Santorum agency!

What Do I Think?
 I think the first and most obvious question is why the heck do we even have open primaries in the first place (this guy thinks it's a good idea: you can vote without declaring yourself for a party!!1! ... oookayy ...)!? But after that, I think of UFC former heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar.

(Call me crazy but I think he'd beat Rick Santorum in the octagon)

I heard an on-the-air interview with Brock where the guy asking the questions (who obviously didn't understand MMA) kept asking Lesnar if there was anything he "wouldn't do" in the ring--was any tactic 'too dirty.' Lesnar kept responding that the only thing he wouldn't do was break the rules. Lesnar's point, which he made several times before the interviewer gave up, was that in the ring there are rules: if something is dirty ... it's against the rules. Groin shots, blows to the back of the head, eye-gouging? All of that's against the rules--so he wouldn't do it.

The point is that if you are going to fight a multi-million dollar war for the future of our country and you think you're the best guy to win? You better do everything within your power to win. Now, that doesn't mean there isn't such a thing as "winning dirty." What Romney did in Florida was 'carpet bomb' Newt Gingrich with a ratio of 65:1 ads almost all of which were negative.

He won--but it cost him: his favorability ratings plummeted. That's winning dirty: it's within the rules but there's a cost. Watergate or other illegal shenanigans have--and should have--legal consequences: that's breaking the rules. So if Rick Santorum wants to phone up Democrats to come vote for him? Fine--but I'd expect there to be a cost down the line for that.

Note that PPP--the (Democratic-leaning, I think) polling house that has Santorum up with  Democrats shows that (from the PPP twitter feed):
"55% of Santorum Democrats in Michigan like him, 40% don't. Looks like mix between sincere votes and Operation Hilarity"
If about half his votes are sincere I'm less outraged--but if Santorum does win on the backs of Democrats who will almost certainly not vote for him in the general? That's not exactly a recommendation for his candidacy.

The big question this raises for Santorum supporters: if the Democratic machine is campaigning for you does that mean you're a chump? To be sure there's at least one poll that shows Santorum beating Obama in the general election (and it's a decent one: Gallup) but most do not (Pew has Obama up +10 right now).

It would worry me: if you're at the poker table and you can't spot the sucker ... you're the sucker.

Edited to Add: Apparently Romney partook of tactical 'raiding' himself!
That year, Romney, then a registered independent, voted for former Sen. Paul Tsongas in the 1992 Democratic presidential primary. He told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, in an interview that will air Sunday on "This Week," that his vote was meant as a tactical maneuver aimed at finding the weakest opponent for incumbent President George H.W. Bush.


  1. I've seen tweets with this following sentiment a couple of different times:

    "Half of me wants Santorum to win, because he'd be easy to beat. The other half doesn't want to put anything past this country."

    2004 wasn't that long ago.