Santorum accuses Romney of rigging Michigan’s delegate distribution

Rick Santorum is accusing Mitt Romney of rigging the delegate count in Michigan and calling on further scrutiny of how the delegates were distributed.

The Michigan Republican Party is awarding Romney two-at large delegates, leaving him with 16 delegates to Santorum’s 14, according to the Detroit Free Press. The Santorum campaign had predicted the two would evenly split the delegates, 15-15.

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“There’s just no way this is happening,” Santorum campaign spokesman Hogan Gidley said in a news release.

“We’ve all heard rumors that Mitt Romney was furious that he spent a fortune in his home state, had all the political establishment connections and could only manage a tie with Rick Santorum. But we never thought the Romney campaign would try to rig the outcome of an election by changing the rules after the vote. This kind of backroom-dealing political thuggery just cannot and should not happen in America."

Romney is leading the overall delegate count, according to The Hill’s tally, with Santorum in second place.

Santorum’s camp said Wednesday that it expected Michigan’s delegates to be split evenly because each of the two candidates won seven congressional districts, thereby giving each of them one at-large delegate.

But Saul Anuzis, a member of the state committee that deals with the delegate counts — and a prominent Romney supporter — said the Santorum accusation was the result of a miscommunication.

He said the two at-large delegates were always going to go to whoever won the statewide primary, according to the Free Press. He added that the Santorum campaign thought otherwise because a memo was sent out incorrectly stating that the delegates would be divvied out proportionately.

"While we regret the error in the memo, it does not change what was voted on by the committee," Anuzis said, according to the Detroit paper. “This is much to do about nothing.”

In response, the Romney campaign recalled robocalls by the Santorum campaign encouraging Michigan Democrats to vote for the former Pennsylvania senator.

"Rick Santorum encouraged Democrats in Michigan to hijack the Republican Primary. Because his strategy failed and Mitt Romney won, he is now attacking the Republican Party,” Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams said in a news release. “The Romney campaign respects the process as determined by the Michigan state party, and we are pleased that we have been awarded a majority of the delegates. We are now focused on the upcoming contests."

In a follow-up conference call, Santorum adviser John Brabender stressed that the story behind the delegate distribution deserved more attention.

"This is about someone purposefully changing the rule to help a candidate after the election," Brabender said on a conference call with reporters on Thursday.

Brabender and surrogates said that this wasn't a matter of winning the at-large delegate, but rather a matter of asking questions over the Michigan Republican Party's process for determining how delegates would be allocated.

Santorum campaign officials said they planned to send a letter to the Republican National Committee urging it to intervene in the delegate dispute.

ABC News reported that, before the primary, the Michigan GOP had said the delegates would be allocated proportionally and by that count Santorum should have won one at-large delegate. But Anuzis's account doesn't conflict with the ABC report, either. The confusion, according to Anuzis, was how the Michigan GOP announced it would divvy out the delegates, not that there had been some change or disagreement.

Romney won the Michigan primary Tuesday with 41 percent of the vote to Santorum’s 38 percent. 

—Megan Wilson contributed reporting.

This story was updated at 4:24 p.m. and at 7:10 p.m.