The scale of the problems that led the Romney campaign to drop challenges to Rick Santorum’s petitions in Illinois and allow him to appear on the ballot became clearer this week, according to a report from the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights.
Last week, BuzzFeed reported that the Romney campaign dropped challenges to Santorum’s signature petitions in several Illinois counties even when he lacked the requisite number of signatures, basically allowing him to appear on the ballot in almost every part of the state. The strange decision, BuzzFeed noted, appeared to have come from Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford, who officially withdrew the challenges. Rutherford offered basically no explanation, telling BuzzFeed, “We decided to be spirited and let it go.”
Now it appears there’s more to the story. Rutherford, who was responsible for collecting signatures for Mitt Romney, made two crucial errors that led to a deal between the two campaigns. Not only did he struggle to get enough signatures for Romney, but he had the signatures notarized out of state, an error that could have prevented Romney from appearing on the ballot at all. The Romney campaign had to send paid staffers to collect signatures in Illinois to get Romney on the ballot, according to Politico.
Once the Romney campaign challenged Santorum’s petitions, the Santorum camp came back with its own challenge based on the notarization error. Santorum’s Illinois state director, Jon Zahm, said that notarizing in Massachusetts instead of Illinois is “a pretty serious mistake” and that the dueling challenges led to a truce between the two campaigns.
The mishap calls into question just how organized the Romney campaign, thought to be a well-oiled machine, really is — something some have begun to question as the primary drags on. According to Politico, the Romney camp was shocked that Rutherford, a statewide officeholder who is rumored to be planning a run for governor, dropped the ball in so many regards.
Andrea Saul, a spokesperson for the Romney campaign, told TPM in a statement:
“Sen. Santorum outright failed to qualify to be on the ballot in four congressional districts in Illinois. However, in other districts where he fell short, it would have been incumbent on us or another campaign to force him off the ballot. We decided against doing that. All of Sen. Santorum’s ballot access problems have been a result of his own organizational failures.”