After Review: Michigan’s 15-15 Delegate Tie Becomes Romney 16, Santorum 14

The tussle over every last delegate in the GOP nomination battle could get ugly, if what happened in Michigan late Wednesday is any indicator.

In a 4-2 vote, the Credentials Committee of the Michigan Republican Party apparently reversed course on a stated delegate selection formula and awarded both statewide delegates to Mitt Romney. The committee includes three Romney supporters, but no Rick Santorum supporters.

The move changed the final Michigan delegate count from a 15-15 tie between Romney and Santorum to a 16-14 Romney win.

Under the rule as described to NPR prior to Tuesday’s election, Romney and Santorum each would have received one of the statewide delegates. (The rule was similarly described to NBC News on Feb. 8 by Michigan Party Chairman Robert Schostak.)

But Saul Anuzis, a member of the Michigan GOP’s Credentials Committee and a Romney supporter, said Thursday that the earlier explanation was based on an “inaccurate” memo. He said the confusion arose because of the penalty imposed by the Republican National Committee on Michigan for setting its primary date before March 6.

Originally, the state was going to award 14 statewide delegates proportionally, which given the result on Tuesday would have meant seven delegates each for Romney and Santorum. But because of the penalty, the state party whittled those 14 voting statewide delegates down to two — and decided that both would come from the slate of the candidate who finished first in the popular vote, who turned out to be Romney.

In a memo Thursday to the RNC, the state party explains that Romney would get two voting statewide delegates and five nonvoting delegates, while Santorum would get seven nonvoting delegates. The nonvoting delegates are so designated because of the national party penalty assessed for the early vote.

“I think it’s fair to Mr. Santorum,” Anuzis told NPR Thursday. “He’s getting his fair share. He’s getting almost half of the delegates.”

The Santorum campaign did not agree. “There’s just no way this is happening. 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,” said Santorum spokesman Hogan Gidley in a statement. “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 back room dealing political thuggery just cannot and should not happen in America.”

Objection was also heard in Ohio, the site of the next big showdown between the two candidates. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, a Santorum supporter who had previously backed Romney, said: “For one delegate, they would break the rules and risk tearing the party apart. They’re desperate.”

The ruling means that Romney will get 16 delegates (two statewide plus two each from the seven congressional districts he won) and Santorum will get 14 delegates (zero statewide plus two each from the seven districts he won).

S.V. Dáte is the NPR Washington Desk’s congressional editor

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