Exit polls show that 4 of 10 voters in Michigan today were either independents or Democrats, crossing over party lines to vote for a GOP candidate under Michigan's open primary system. And a strong majority of those crossover voters were casting their ballots for Santorum because they believe he'd be easier for President Barack Obama to defeat in November than Mitt Romney. Santorum openly appealed to Democrats to support him, and Romney blasted him for it, saying it was an attempt to "kidnap" the primary.
For the record, Texas also has an open primary system.
Here are some other findings from the exit polls, as reported by The Associated Press:
DEBATES LOSING STEAM:Debates were not an important factor in most voters’ decisions in either state. About 36 percent in Michigan and 47 percent in Arizona said debates were an important factor, well off the debate high-point notched in Florida and South Carolina, where more than 6 in 10 called debates leading up to those primaries an important factor in their vote. In Arizona, which Mitt Romney carried with broad advantages nearly across the board, there was little difference in the vote between those who called the debate important and those who said it didn’t matter. In Michigan, however, where the race remains close, those who called the debate an important factor tilted toward Romney while those unswayed by it favored Santorum.
ECONOMIC CHALLENGES: About 1 in 3 Michigan voters said they or someone in their household had lost a job in the last three years, while 1 in 5 Arizona voters said their family was falling behind financially. In both states, the economy was most frequently cited as voters’ top issue. Romney carried about half of the vote among those who called the economy their top issue in both states.
ABORTION: There has been an increased focus on abortion in the campaign lately, and the preliminary exit poll results show Michigan Republicans picking up on it, with about 1 in 7 calling that their top issue. And there is a sizable gender gap in that result: Among women, about 1 in 5 called it a top issue, about twice as many as among men. Abortion voters in Michigan favored Santorum by a 7-to-1 advantage. Fewer in Arizona were focused on abortion. In both states, about 6 in 10 voters said they believe abortion should be illegal in most or all cases.
Early results from the Arizona exit poll are based on interviews with 2,348 Republican primary voters, including 601 absentee or early voters who were interviewed by phone before election day. Michigan results are based on interviews with 2,133 voters, including 412 absentee or early voters. Election day voters come from a random sample of 30 precincts in each state. Both polls have a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
-- John Gravois