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Michigan GOP Changes Delegate Rules, Gives Primary Edge to Romney

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(LANSING, Mich.) -- The Michigan Republican Party voted to break a delegate tie Wednesday night, awarding 16 delegates to Mitt Romney and 14 to Rick Santorum.

The decision, which broke a 15-15 tie that would have resulted under the pre-primary interpretation of the rules, caused disbelief at Rick Santorum’s campaign. A spokesman rejected the decision.

Santorum had claimed partial victory, and ABC News projected a delegate tie from Michigan’s Tuesday primary based on the rules as originally laid out by the Michigan GOP.

Romney won the popular vote 41 percent to Santorum’s 38 percent.

There could be a lot of fuss over this one delegate. The notion of a delegate tie has encapsulated the Santorum campaign’s spin on Michigan, but perhaps more importantly, Santorum is counting on an energized conservative Tea Party base to oppose Romney for the rest of the primary season. Winning this one delegate could hurt Romney more than it helps him, if the Michigan GOP’s contradiction leads to an added sense of injustice in the anti-Romney contingent of GOP primary voters.

Before the primary, party officials repeatedly explained the rules as splitting the two at-large delegates between any candidate getting more than 15 percent of the vote. Under that interpretation, as laid out by party officials, Santorum should have gotten an at-large delegate.

Santorum’s campaign accused Romney’s campaign of trying to rig the results.

“There’s just no way this is happening,” Santorum communications director Hogan Gidley said in an email statement to press after the Michigan GOP’s announcement. “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 thug-ery [sic] just doesn’t happen in America.”

There was no evidence Thursday to show Romney’s campaign was involved with the delegate allocation.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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