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Exit Polls Show Democrats Give Boost to Rick Santorum in Michigan, Mitt Romney Cries "Dirty Tricks"

Early exit polls show that Rick Santorum's efforts to target Democrats in Michigan's open primary could prove decisive in Tuesday's close race in Michigan.

A small, but still sizeable percent of voters (10 percent) in the Michigan Republican primary were Democrats, according to exit polls. That figure is higher than the seven percent of Democrats who came out for Republicans in 2008.

Among Democrats who voted, Santorum was ahead 50 percent to 15 percent, which could mean that Democrats will give Santorum a 3.5 percent boost.

Because Michigan is an open primary, voters from either party are permitted to cast their ballot at the polls. By contrast, Arizona is closed to only Republican voters.

One Democrat who voted for Rick Santorum today, Tom Hardy, told BuzzFeed he switched his party registration just to vote today. "I did it to prolong the nomination. It's to ensure that the nominee is weakened against Obama. If it's Santorum versus Obama, it's over."

Several weeks back, leading liberal blogger and DailyKos founder Markos Moulitsas launched a campaign entitled "Operation Hilarity," urging Democrats living in Michigan, North Dakota, Vermont, and Tennesse to head out to the polls and cast a vote for Rick Santorum in order to "keep the GOP clown show going!"

Mitt Romney lashed out against Santorum on Tuesday for employing "dirty tricks" by calling Democratic voters and inviting them to vote against Romney in Michigan.

“The hardest thing about predicting what’s going to happen today is whether Sen. Santorum’s effort to call Democrat households and tell them to come out and vote against Mitt Romney is going to be successful or not,” Romney told reporters. “I think Republicans have to recognize there’s a real effort to kidnap our primary process. And if we want Republicans to nominate the Republican who takes on Barack Obama, I need Republicans to get out and vote and say no to the, the dirty tricks of a desperate campaign.”

But, it remains to be seen how much influence Democrats will have. In 2000, 17 percent of Democrats turned out to support Senator John McCain; this year, it looks as though only 10 percent will come out.

That this strategy has been used in years past also undermines Romney's claim that Santorum is using "dirty tricks" here. This type of political sabotage is intrinsic to the electoral process, a proven strategy every election cycle.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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