Republican presidential contender Rick Santorum is courting an unusual coalition of tea party activists, social conservatives and Democrats to try to defeat Mitt Romney in Michigan's GOP primary.
Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, is known for unflinching conservative views on social issues. But on the eve of Tuesday's primary in Romney's native state, the Santorum campaign used automated telephone calls to encourage Michigan Democrats to vote against the former Massachusetts governor.
Only declared Republicans may vote in Tuesday's GOP primary, but party rules allow voters to change their affiliation temporarily on the spot.
Santorum's "robocall" says Democrats should send "a loud message" to Romney by voting for Santorum.
Santorum will spend much of Tuesday near Grand Rapids, a city set in a western Michigan region home to many social conservatives and tea party supporters. His recent rise to prominence in the Republican presidential contest has been fueled by a continued reluctance among the GOP's more conservative voters to embrace Romney.
Recent polls suggest the Michigan contest is essentially a tossup, despite Romney's strong ties to the state. He was born and raised in Michigan, where his father served as governor.
"I think the fact that we are doing as well as we are is a pretty big deal in this state," Santorum said at a Lansing campaign event Friday.
No matter the winner, the two men stand to split the 30 delegates at stake because Michigan distributes delegates proportionally. By contrast, Romney is favored to capture all 29 delegates Tuesday in Arizona's primary, which features a winner-take-all system.
© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.