“The Dirty Tricks of a Desperate Campaign”

LIVONIA, Mich. – Mitt Romney arrived at his campaign office in Livonia with a simple message: The election here had come down to Republicans for Mitt and fiends for Rick.

“You are making calls to Republicans today,” he told volunteers. “The Santorum campaign is making calls to Democrats today.” He took a mic to talk to reporters, for the first time in 20 days, and dropped the subtlety. “I think Republicans have to recognize there’s a real effort to kidnap our primary process,” he said. He was grappling with the “dirty tricks of a desperate campaign.”

He was talking about stuff like this, a Super PAC call from Freedom’s Defense Fund that was scooped by Talking Points Memo’s Evan McMorris-Santoro.

It’s a useful tool for the Romney campaign. On C-Span this morning, Rep. Jeff Flake bucked up Romney (his candidate) by arguing that it wasn’t all that important for a candidate to take his home state in a primary, and “things like this” (the Democratic crossover story) would ameliorate any panic from a Romney loss.

This is ambitious. It can’t possibly work. If Romney loses Michigan and Democrats make up the defeat margin, he still has to prep for the Washington state caucuses on Saturday, where, historically, social conservatives have mopped up. And he has to explain why it’s a bad thing if Democrats want to vote for Santorum. Santorum, who has wrestled from the outset with “the electability question,” has claimed and swore that he can win Reagan Democrats and the effete Romney can’t. What’s the second-day spin from a Democrats-for-Santorum win?