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Did Democrats mess up the Michigan primary results?

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Andre J. Jackson/Detroit Free Press/AP

(Read caption) Voters prepare to cast their ballots at Christ Lutheran Church in Sterling Heights, Mich., on Tuesday, Feb., 28. Voters casting ballots in Michigan's GOP primary have varied opinions on which GOP candidate they'd like to see in the White House.

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So, did Democrats mess up the Michigan primary results?

Not really. The exit poll showed that 9 percent of voters self-identified as Democrats, a perfectly legitimate exercise of suffrage in an open GOP primary. That’s just two percentage points more than in 2008. And it’s far less than in 2000, when Democrats made up 17 percent of the Michigan Republican primary electorate – and helped Sen. John McCain to victory there.

This time, some odd bedfellows encouraged voting by Democrats, who had no competitive presidential primary of their own. The liberal Daily Kos blog unleashed “Operation Hilarity,” urging Democrats to vote for Rick Santorum in hopes it would hand Mitt Romney a humiliating loss in his native state. Then the Santorum campaign chimed in with robocalls to Democrats – a bid, the campaign said, to reach out to conservative “Reagan Democrats.”

Mr. Santorum did indeed win Democrats handily: 52 percent, versus 18 percent for Romney.

“Without them Romney would have had a comfortable 9-point win” in Michigan, writes Gary Langer, pollster for ABC News. “With them it was closer.”

We suspect that the calls for Democratic mischief, or at least crossover voting, fell on largely deaf ears. After all, most people have better things to do than play games with the other party’s primary.

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