DETROIT (AP) -- Michigan Democrats who tried to create havoc in the Republican presidential primary failed to upset establishment favorite Mitt Romney, despite efforts by GOP rival Rick Santorum to draw them to the polls.
Tuesday's outcome was different from 12 years ago, when a surge of Democratic and independent voters gave Arizona Sen. John McCain an upset win over then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush in the Republican presidential primary. Some Democrats in that 2000 election wanted to punish Republican Gov. John Engler after he promised Michigan would be a firewall for Bush. Others felt a genuine kinship with McCain, a war hero whose populist message attracted blue-collar voters.
Democrats this year weren't feeling the same warmth for Santorum and his deeply conservative and religious message, said Mark Grebner of Practical Political Consulting in East Lansing. The Democratic Ingham County commissioner voted for Santorum to harm Romney but said many other Democrats didn't follow suit.
"Santorum is so repugnant to Democrats that there was a countercrossover vote" that went to Romney and Texas Rep. Ron Paul, Grebner said. He estimates that cut the number of Democratic votes for Santorum to around 20,000, not enough to overcome Romney's 32,000-vote advantage.
Nearly 1 in 10 voters in the primary were self-described Democrats and at least some attempted to play the spoiler role, an exit poll of voters showed. Slightly more than half said they voted for Santorum, while Romney carried about 18 percent and Paul got 17 percent. Although Santorum ran strongly among voters who said they strongly supported the tea party movement, he also outperformed Romney among staunch tea party foes, another sign of possible Democratic influence.
The lack of Democratic crossover votes had to disappoint Santorum, who was counting on Election Day automated phone calls to Democratic homes to help him beat Romney, a Michigan native whose campaign would have taken a serious hit if Santorum won the state. The automated calls accused Romney of supporting "bailouts for his Wall Street billionaire buddies" while opposing federal bailouts for General Motors Co. and Chrysler.
"That was a slap in the face to every Michigan worker, and we're not going to let Romney get away with it," the caller said while not mentioning that Santorum also opposed the federal auto bailout.
A different automated campaign call tried to tap into the same sentiment that worked in 2000 against Engler, this time by criticizing current Gov. Rick Snyder and referring to the headline on a 2008 New York Times op-ed piece Romney wrote as GM and Chrysler were seeking federal aid to stay afloat.
"Gov. Rick Snyder has endorsed Mitt Romney, the same Mitt Romney who said, `Let Detroit go bankrupt,' " a caller said an automated message paid for by Freedom's Defense Fund. "This is your opportunity to send a message to Romney and Rick Snyder, by voting for Rick Santorum."
Some Democrats said they were tempted to vote for Santorum but worried that weakening Romney at this point could lead to a brokered GOP national convention where a stronger candidate might emerge. Others stayed away from the GOP primary because they didn't want to appear on lists that will be available to the public showing they requested a Republican ballot.
And some didn't want to pass up the chance to vote for Democratic President Barack Obama, even though their votes didn't count because Democrats will pick their presidential favorite at May 5 caucuses. In 2000, no major Democratic candidate was on the primary election ballot because caucuses determined the favorite.
Still, there were plenty of crossover voters who heeded filmmaker Michael Moore and other Democratic activists urging them to vote for Santorum as a way to weaken Romney.
Among them was Marjorie Gabriel-Burrow, a 57-year-old Southfield resident who staffs the office at a pipefitters union.
"I really don't want Mitt Romney to win. I don't think he's for the average family," she said after voting for Santorum. "I think Barack Obama can beat any of them with God on his side."
Robin Kyle, a 55-year-old lawyer from Grosse Pointe Park, noted after voting that "Santorum would be easier for Obama to beat; he's so far right."
"Hopefully, Republicans still will still be fighting over the nomination in June," Kyle added.
Santorum defended reaching out to Democrats and independents, saying he was trying to appeal to socially conservative, blue-collar Michigan Democrats who had supported Ronald Reagan. He suggested that Romney did something similar when he courted independent voters in New Hampshire's GOP primary last month.
But several Romney supporters agreed with their candidate that the automated calls were "deceptive and a dirty trick."
"I was pretty disgusted when I found out about" Santorum's effort to court Democratic voters, said Pam Rietsch, a 63-year-old Romney supporter who lives in Livingston County's Genoa Township. "It's ridiculous."