Will Santorum get Dem votes in Michigan primary, via Operation Hilarity?

Rick Santorum is robo-calling registered Democrats in Michigan with the hope they'll help him in his fight to defeat Mitt Romney in Tuesday's GOP primary.

Rick Santorum's presidential campaign used robo-calls on Monday asking Democrats to come out and vote for him tomorrow highlighting Mitt Romney's opposition to the auto industry bailout program. Talking Points Memo reported on it after speaking with Bill Ballenger, a longtime Michigan politico and the editor of Inside Michigan Politics,

Ballenger told Talking Points Memo about the call earlier in the day." He said the call piqued his interest because it sounded like it could have come from a union targeting Romney ahead of the Feb. 28 primary."

Michigan has a long history of providing for cross-over voting in primaries but according to the state Democratic party, it is not involved in helping any of the GOP candidates get out the vote among registered Dems.

A political website, The Daily Kos has made an effort to help Santorum with Democrat cross-over votes and as is typical of the site's founder Markos Moulitsas, he gave his mission a name: Operation Hilarity.

Two weeks ago Moulitsas announced the creation of Operation Hilarity by saying: "It's time for us to take an active role in the GOP nomination process. That's right, it's time for those of us who live in open primary and caucus states—Michigan, North Dakota, Vermont and Tennessee in the next three weeks—to head out and cast a vote for Rick Santorum."

Moulitsas' mentor was Rush Limbaugh, who in 2008, caused a stir by urging his listeners in open-primary states to go out and vote for Hillary Clinton in their Democratic primaries. Politico said he called it "Operation Chaos" -- a way of messing with (and, theoretically, dragging out) the long Democratic nomination fight once the GOP side of things was already over.

Republicans in Michigan were already a bit leery of Santorum's two-week old solid lead in the polls and had likened it to the 2000 GOP primary contest between George W. Bush and Sen. John McCain. In that contest, McCain triumphed over Bush by 7percentage points despite the soon-to-be president having secured the major GOP supporters in the state.

Rick Santorum's campaign took its time today confirming that the robo-calls were paid for and authorized by them, but when they did, it had to delight Markos Moulitsas who said. “My expectations are modest — maybe a couple of thousand of votes for Santorum.”

It made the Obama campaign in the state skittish and quick to advise anyone who wanted to know that it was not associated in any way with Operation Hilarity.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons/Kyle Cassidy

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