*** UPDATED WITH AUDIO *** AND AT 4:30 WITH A STATEMENT FROM THE MICHIGAN GOP AND SANTORUM'S CAMPAIGN.
The Detroit Free Press today reported that the Michigan Republican Party voted last night to award the state's two at-large delegates to the statewide winner -- i.e, Mitt Romney -- instead of dividing them up proportionally.
That move, according the paper, would give Romney a 16-14 edge in delegates instead of the 15-15 tie between Romney and Santorum.
As a result of this move, NBC has since changed the delegate count, 16-14.
In response to criticism that the Michigan GOP changed its rules to benefit native son Mitt Romney, Michigan GOP committeeman Saul Anuzis -- a Romney supporter -- said the winner-take-all aspect for the at-large delegates was always agreed upon, and any misunderstanding was due to an error in the party's memo.
"Regrettably, there was an error in the memo drafted and sent to the respective campaigns," Anuzis said. "There were questions raised at the time the memo was drafted as to whether the legal language used was accomplishing the goal of the committee and we were advised that it was, but now it is clear that the memo did not properly communicate the intent of the committee. The email traffic surrounding the drafting of the memo in early February makes explicitly clear what the intent of the committee was."
But in an interview with NBC News three weeks ago -- on Feb. 8 -- Michigan GOP Chair Robert Schostak clearly stated that Michigan's at-large delegates would be awarded PROPORTIONALLY.
"We start off with, after the penalty, 30 voting delegates. Okay? Each district-congressional district - you can win individually. So you have 14 districts you can win two delegates. That takes you to 28. Okay? The two at-large that remain, provided the individual candidate won at least 15 percent of the statewide vote - okay so with four candidates that's likely to happen. Then they get awarded proportionally, those delegates, and then rounded to the nearest decimal point so there won't be any half delegates or quarter delegates."
(Emphasis is ours.)
The Michigan Republican Party has been rife with internal disagreements over the years, so it's not surprising that it doesn't even agree how its delegates should be awarded.
*** UPDATE *** Here is a new statement to NBC News from the party's communications director taking blame for not explaining "more clearly" and laying out the math.
Matt Frendewey, director of communications, Michigan Republican Party:
"It is unfortunate if I did not explain this more clearly. When the RNC indicated it would penalize our total delegates and award us only 30 delegates, the credentials committee met on Feb. 4 and interpreted the penalty by voting unanimously to send Michigan’s full delegation. Within congressional districts, designate two out of the three delegates as the RNC recognized delegates and two out of the 14 at-large as RNC recognized delegates.
"The at-large delegates are still awarded proportionally to candidates that achieve the 15 percent threshold, the two RNC recognized delegates are assigned to the candidate that wins the most votes. Michigan’s results, without the RNC penalty, 28-Romney/28-Santorum. If the RNC upholds its penalty, 16-Romney, 14-Santorum."
That is of no consolation to the Santorum campaign.
Per NBC's Andrew Rafferty, here's the response from Santorum national political director Hogan Gidley:
"There’s just no way this is happening. We’ve all heard rumors that Mitt Romney was furious that he spent a fortune in his home state, had all the political establishment connections and could only tie Rick Santorum. But 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 back room dealing political thuggery just cannot and should not happen in America."