The Romney campaign is spittin' mad, because there are hijinx afoot in his semi-home state of Michigan. (Can't fully count it as a home state, since his wife doesn't even have a Cadillac there.) It seems that there's been some effort to get Democrats -- particularly union households -- to vote in today's Republican primary, for Rick Santorum. Santorum himself, it turns out, is one of the leading voices behind this scheme, and has been sending robocalls urging this behavior.
This is the kind of dirty trick that, in many cases, would backfire on Santorum. I'm sure that's what the Romney camp is hoping for, by reacting very loudly and very angrily at the outrage. Unfortunately for Romney, it may turn out that repurcussions are minimal for playing dirty tricks against someone who nobody likes.
The thing is, Mitt Romney has given Democrats, and particularly union households, and especially particularly Michigan union households, lots of reason to want to stick it to him.
Romney is one of the most stridently anti-labor Presidential candidates of our time. As I have said before, the one core principle upon which Romney has never wavered in his otherwise circuitous political career has been the rock-solid commitment to the plight of the beleaguered owners of capital against the terrible menace of the proletariat.
He did, however, step out of that role one time: Just before the 2008 Michigan primary, which he desperately needed to win against John McCain.
McCain had made the mistake of saying out loud that some of the auto industry's jobs were gone for good. His point was that it makes more sense for the government to invest in retraining programs than to sit around idly wishing that closed plants would magically re-open. Romney seized on the opportunity to furiously pound McCain for giving up on Michigan; Romney was suddenly the socialist pledging to intervene and do whatever it would take to save every single auto industry job forever.
Less than a year later, Romney famously advised the federal government to let Detroit go bankrupt. It's not quite fair to say that he said to give up on Michigan, but he certainly came closer to saying it than McCain had. And without question he had abandoned the idea of saving every auto industry job, that he had pledged to the state when he needed their votes.
To be sure, the snow job hadn't worked -- Democrats and union members in Michigan voted for McCain over Romney in that 2008 primary -- but you can see why there might be some resentment there.
Now, Romney has been claiming, preposterously, that his prescription for the auto industry is what the Obama administration ultimately did, and that it worked. This is just nonsense and he knows it, and so do the people who work in the auto industry, who follow this stuff pretty damn closely.
Anyway, on top of all this, Romney wrote an op-ed for the Detroit News two weeks ago, making two criticisms of the Obama bailout of the auto industry which he has also been making on the campaign trail. One is that the whole bailout was just "crony capitalism" to pay off the labor unions who fund the President. The second is that the US government insisted on something "truly egregious" -- protecting the pensions of union employees ahead of the loans owed to Goldman Sachs, Citi, and JP Morgan.
Now, you can agree with Romney on all of this. But, you can't be surprised if a certain number of UAW members decide to come to the polls to cast a vote against the guy saying it.
Oh, and one more thing: Romney occasionally defends his 1992 vote for Paul Tsongas in the Democratic primary as a "strategic vote" to affect the other party's nomination process. When he says that, he doesn't seem to be harshly condemning himself for doing so.