Mitt Romney’s campaign is incensed over news, first reported by TPM, that Rick Santorum has been using robocalls to court anti-Romney Democrats in Tuesday’s primary. The move comes as Democratic pranksters led by the Daily Kos are urging progressives to vote for Santorum in order to prolong the race and boost President Obama’s re-election chances in the Fall. But in an ironic twist, Romney once voted in a Democratic primary for strategic reasons himself.
According to Romney, he crossed party lines to vote for Paul Tsongas in the 1992 Democratic primary over Bill Clinton in order to cause mischief for the general election. In fact, he suggested this was common practice. From an ABC News interview in 2007:
“In Massachusetts, if you register as an independent, you can vote in either the Republican or Democratic primary,” said Romney, who until he made an unsuccessful run for Senate in 1994 had spent his adult life as a registered independent. “When there was no real contest in the Republican primary, I’d vote in the Democrat primary, vote for the person who I thought would be the weakest opponent for the Republican.”
This was actually the second explanation Romney gave for his vote. Back in the 1990s, he said he voted for Tsongas out of home state pride and because he liked his platform better than Clinton. Either way, Romney is on record saying that it’s fair game for partisans to participate in the primary with their own team’s best interests in mind.
Santorum’s camp says they’re not trying anything underhanded, merely reaching out to “Reagan Democrats” that they think could be enticed to vote GOP in November.
“When I run a call basically calling Democrats that are eligible to vote here to vote for us, and encouraging people to come and vote for us, and we talk about our manufacturing plan and what we are going to do to create job, it’s a positive robo call,” Santorum told FOX News’ Sean Hannity.
But Romney called the move a “dirty trick” on Monday night and a “new low” for the campaign.
“Look, we don’t want Democrats deciding who our nominee is going to be, we want Republicans deciding who our nominee is going to be,” Romney added in a Tuesday morning appearance on Fox & Friends.
A Romney aide repeatedly labeled Santorum a “fraud” for encouraging crossover votes the same night.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.