SCHAUMBURG — Mitt Romney took a major stride toward the Republican presidential nomination Tuesday night, routing Rick Santorum in the Illinois primary for his third big-state win in a row and padding his already-formidable lead in the race for convention delegates.
"What a night," Romney exulted to cheering supporters in suburban Chicago. Looking beyond his GOP rivals, he said he had a simple message for President Barack Obama, the man Republicans hope to defeat next fall: "Enough. We've had enough."
Returns from 98 percent of Illinois' precincts showed Romney gaining 47 percent of the vote compared to 35 percent for Santorum, 9 percent for Ron Paul and 8 percent for a fading Newt Gingrich.
that was a far more substantial showing for Romney than the grudging victories he eked out in the previous few weeks in Michigan and Ohio, primaries that did as much to raise questions about his ability to attract Republican support as to quell those questions.
Santorum, who hopes to rebound in next Saturday's Louisiana primary, sounded like anything but a defeated contender as he spoke to supporters in Gettysburg, Pa. He said he had outpolled Romney in downstate Illinois and the areas "that conservatives and Republicans populate. We're very happy about that and we're happy about the delegates we're going to get, too."
"Saddle up, like (Ronald) Reagan did in the cowboy movies," he urged his backers.
Romney triumphed in Illinois after benefiting from a crushing, 7-1 advantage in the television advertising wars, and as his chief rival struggled to overcome self-imposed political wounds in the marathon race to pick an opponent to Obama.
most recently, Santorum backpedaled after saying on Monday that the economy wasn't the main issue of the campaign. "Occasionally you say some things where you wish you had a do-over," he said later.
over the weekend, he was humbled in the Puerto Rico primary after saying that to qualify for statehood the island commonwealth should adopt English as an official language.
Romney's victory was worth at least 41 delegates in Illinois, while Santorum won 10. the two rivals were battling for the final three delegates but the results were too close to call on election night.
Romney has 563 in the overall count maintained by the associated Press, out of 1,144 needed to win the nomination. Santorum has 263 delegates, Gingrich 135 and Paul 50.
SCHAUMBURG — Mitt Romney took a major stride toward the Republican presidential nomination Tuesday night, routing Rick Santorum in the Illinois primary for his third big-state win in a row and padding his already-formidable lead in the race for convention delegates. "What a night," Romney exulted to cheering supporters in suburban Chicago. Looking beyond his GOP rivals, he said he had a simple message for President Barack Obama, the man Republicans hope to defeat next fall: "Enough. We've had enough." Returns from 98 percent of Illinois' precincts showed Romney gaining 47 percent of the vote compared to 35 percent for Santorum, 9 percent for Ron Paul and 8 percent for a fading Newt Gingrich. that was a far more substantial showing for Romney than the grudging victories he eked out in the previous few weeks in Michigan and Ohio, primaries that did as much to raise questions about his ability to attract Republican support as to quell those questions. Santorum, who hopes to rebound in next Saturday's Louisiana primary, sounded like anything but a defeated contender as he spoke to supporters in Gettysburg, Pa. He said he had outpolled Romney in downstate Illinois and the areas "that conservatives and Republicans populate. We're very happy about that and we're happy about the delegates we're going to get, too." "Saddle up, like (Ronald) Reagan did in the cowboy movies," he urged his backers. Romney triumphed in Illinois after benefiting from a crushing, 7-1 advantage in the television advertising wars, and as his chief rival struggled to overcome self-imposed political wounds in the marathon race to pick an opponent to Obama. most recently, Santorum backpedaled after saying on Monday that the economy wasn't the main issue of the campaign. "Occasionally you say some things where you wish you had a do-over," he said later. over the weekend, he was humbled in the Puerto Rico primary after saying that to qualify for statehood the island commonwealth should adopt English as an official language. Romney's victory was worth at least 41 delegates in Illinois, while Santorum won 10. the two rivals were battling for the final three delegates but the results were too close to call on election night. Romney has 563 in the overall count maintained by the associated Press, out of 1,144 needed to win the nomination. Santorum has 263 delegates, Gingrich 135 and Paul 50. Exit polls showed Romney preferred by primary goers who said the economy was the top issue in the campaign, and overwhelmingly favored by those who said an ability to defeat Obama was the quality they most wanted in a nominee. He won among votes who said they were somewhat conservative or moderate, while Santorum prevailed among those who said they were "very conservative." while pre-primary polls taken several days ago in Illinois suggested a close race, Romney and Restore our future, a super Pac that backs him, unleashed a barrage of campaign ads to erode Santorum's standing. one ad accused the former Pennsylvania senator of changing his principles while serving in Congress, while two others criticized him for voting to raise the debt limit, raise his own pay as a lawmaker and side with former Sen. Hillary Clinton to support legislation allowing felons the right to vote. In all, Romney and Restore our Future outspent Santorum and a super PAC that backs him by $3.5 million to $500,000, an advantage of 7-1. In the long and grinding campaign, Santorum looked to rebound in next Saturday's primary in Louisiana, particularly given Romney's demonstrated difficulties winning in contests across the Deep South. A 10-day break follows before Washington, D.C., Maryland and Wisconsin hold primaries on April 3. Santorum is not on the ballot in the nation's capital. Private polling shows Romney with an advantage in Maryland, and Restore our Future launched a television ad campaign in the state during the day at a cost of more than $450,000. Wisconsin shapes up as the next big test between Romney and Santorum, an industrial state next door to Illinois, but one where Republican politics have been roiled recently by a controversy involving a recall battle against the governor and some GOP state senators who supported legislation that was bitterly opposed by labor unions. Already, Restore our future has put down more than $2 million in television advertising across Wisconsin. Santorum has spent about $50,000 to answer. Neither Newt Gingrich nor Ron Paul campaigned extensively in Illinois. Gingrich has faded into near-irrelevance in the race, but he was defiant in a statement issued after Romney sealed his victory. "To defeat Barack Obama, Republicans can't nominate a candidate who relies on outspending his opponents 7-1. Instead, we need a nominee who offers powerful solutions that hold the president accountable for his failures," it said. Gingrich said his campaign will spend the time leading to the party convention "relentlessly taking the fight to President Obama." Illinois fell into Romney's column far more easily than Michigan or Ohio had. the night's vote count was plagued by ballot difficulties. Rupert Borgsmiller, executive director, of the Illinois State Board of Elections, said in late afternoon that 25 counties and the city of Aurora were affected by the ballot problem. He didn't know how many ballots were affected but said "clearly you can say more than hundreds." Romney and Santorum campaigned energetically across the state, and not always in respectful tones. "Senator Santorum has the same economic lightweight background the president has," Romney said at one point. "We're not going to replace an economic lightweight with another economic lightweight." Santorum had a tart reply. "if Mitt Romney's an economic heavyweight, we're in trouble." Anticipating a primary defeat, Santorum's campaign argued that the race for delegates is closer than it appears. Santorum contends the Republican National Committee at the convention will force Florida and Arizona to allocate their delegates on a proportional basis instead of winner-take-all as the state GOP decided. Romney won both states. On Tuesday, about 4 in 10 voters interviewed as they left their polling places said they were evangelical or born again. That's about half the percentage in last week's primary states of Alabama and Mississippi, where Santorum won narrowly. despite an unusually lengthy race for the nomination, less than a third of those voting said in the polling-place survey they hoped the primary season would come to a quick end even if that meant their candidate might lose the nomination. the findings came from preliminary results from the survey of 1,555 Illinois Republican voters, and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. the exit poll was conducted for the associated Press and the television networks by Edison Research at 35 randomly selected polling places around the state. As Illinois Republicans voted on Tuesday, Romney raised more than $1.3 million at a luncheon in Chicago. Illinois was the 28th state to hold a primary or caucus in the selection of delegates to the nominating convention, about halfway through the calendar of a Republican campaign that has remained competitive longer than most. A change in party rules to reduce the number of winner-take-all primaries has accounted for the duration of the race. But so has Romney's difficulty in securing the support of the most conservative of the GOP political base. Santorum and Gingrich have struggled to emerge as the front-runner's sole challenger from the right.
On Tuesday, March 20th, voters in Illinois will their cast ballots in the state’s Republican Presidential Primary election. Here is a look at the most recent polling:
- A Chicago Tribune/WGN-TV poll gives Mitt Romney a 35-31 lead over Rick Santorum. Newt Gingrich comes in third place with 12% support. Ron Paul earns just 7%. the poll shows Romney doing well in Chicago and its suburbs, with Santorum leading in the rest of the state.
- A FOX Chicago News poll shows Romney with a 37-31 lead over Santorum. Gingrich earns 14% support, and Paul has just 8%.
- A Rasmussen Reports poll of likely Republican Primary voters has Romney with a 41-32 lead over Santorum. Gingrich comes in third with 14%, and Paul again comes in last place with just 7% support.
- A Public Policy Polling survey shows Romney with a commanding 45-30 lead over Santorum. Gingrich has the support of 12% of voters, with Paul earning 10% support. Romney dominates with suburban voters, hitting 50% support in a four-man race. he also leads Santorum by a 2-1 margin with urban voters, 46-23. Romney has 52% support among seniors, and even leads Santorum slightly with rural voters.
It looks like Mitt Romney is going to win Illinois, with the margin of victory being the only real question. A solid win in the largest Midwestern state will give his campaign a nice boost, and will further pad his lead in convention delegates. If Santorum is able to keep it close, however, it will only add fuel to the narrative that Romney simply can’t close the deal with GOP voters, and a contested Republican National Convention in Tampa will remain a realistic possibility.
- Fifty-four delegates are up for grabs Tuesday
- Poll: 44% of likely GOP primary voters in Illinois say they are backing Romney
- Regardless of the polling, Santorum remains confident
- Gingrich is concentrating his efforts on Saturday’s Louisiana primary
Wheaton, Illinois (CNN) — here we go again — another Tuesday, another “must-win” primary state for Mitt Romney.
Fifty-four delegates are up for grabs Tuesday when Illinois votes for the Republican presidential nominee. But for the former Massachusetts governor, capturing the popular vote might be just as important as increasing his lead in the battle for delegates.
“Romney could really use a romp in Illinois. it wouldn’t put him over the top, but it would put him back on track with a head of steam,” said CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley.
After finishing third last Tuesday in Alabama and Mississippi to his main rival for the nomination, former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, and to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Romney regained a bit of momentum on Sunday when he trounced Santorum in Puerto Rico’s primary, getting 83% of the vote and picking up all 20 delegates up for grabs.
Brown: Romney will get nomination Santorum: Romney can’t be the nominee Santorum: Unemployment ‘doesn’t matter’ Rick Santorum’s fight for delegates
Now comes Illinois, with a large, somewhat moderate GOP electorate, thanks to the large number of voters in metropolitan Chicago. call Illinois the new Michigan, or the new Ohio — the last two “must-win” states.
Back on February 28, pundits said Romney had to win Michigan, the state where he grew up and where his father was governor. he did.
A week later, on Super Tuesday, political analysts and strategists said Romney had to win the crucial battleground state of Ohio. again, he did, narrowly edging out Santorum.
“If he and Santorum stay true to the template that fits most of the past contests, Santorum will pull strongly in rural and more conservative downstate Illinois and Romey will do better up north, in the more populous areas, particularly around Chicago and its suburbs,” said Crowley, anchor of CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Republican consultant Matt Mackowiak agrees.
“Illinois presents a must-win for Romney as the state’s more moderate makeup and urban population set up better for Romney than Santorum,” Mackowiak said.
An American Research Group poll released Monday showed Romney with a 14-point lead over Santorum. According to the survey, which was conducted over the weekend, 44% of likely GOP primary voters in Illinois said they were backing Romney, with 30% supporting Santorum, 13% backing Gingrich and 8% supporting Rep. Ron Paul of Texas.
Romney added events in Illinois on Friday morning and Saturday evening and all day Sunday, cutting back on time in Puerto Rico to Friday evening and Saturday morning.
He also dropped his emphasis on the math that he argued made it clear that he alone has the only shot during the primary and caucus season to reach the 1,144 delegates needed to clinch the nomination.
Over the past few days, he appears to be increasing his attention to female voters and to gas prices.
“People across this country are wondering what they are going to do with these gasoline prices,” Romney said Monday morning at an event in Springfield. “A lot of moms are wondering if they can take their kids from event to event, from school to soccer practice. People are hurting in this country with gasoline prices the way they are. And the prices are, to a degree, a result of failed economic policies by this president.”
And he continued to tout his economic credentials and attack Santorum over the economy.
“I am someone experienced in the economy. I am not an economic lightweight. President Obama is. We are not going to be successful replacing an economic lightweight with another economic lightweight. We are going to have replace him with someone who knows how to run this economy.”
In response, Santorum asked if Americans wanted a president with ties to big banks.
“I heard Gov. Romney here called me an ‘economic lightweight’ because I wasn’t a Wall Street financier like he was. Do you really believe this country wants to elect a Wall Street financier as the president of the United States?” Santorum asked at a campaign rally in Rockford.
Later Monday, the two campaigns argued over a quote from Santorum at a rally in Moline, Illinois, in which he hit on an often-repeated theme that the two biggest issues in the campaign were freedom and health care, and Romney would be a weaker candidate on the latter because the health care reform effort Romney oversaw in Massachusetts was the “blueprint for Obamacare.”
“We need a candidate who’s going to be a fighter for freedom — who’s going to get up and make that the central theme in this race, because it is the central theme in this race. I don’t care what the unemployment rate is going to be. it doesn’t matter to me. My campaign doesn’t hinge on unemployment rates and growth rates. There’s something more foundational that’s going on here,” Santorum said.
Following Santorum’s speech, Romney’s team blasted out an e-mail to reporters with a link to a five-second clip of Santorum saying: “I don’t care what the unemployment rate is going to be. it doesn’t matter to me.”
In the e-mail from Romney’s campaign, spokeswoman Andrea Saul criticized Santorum over the comment.
“Wow. Sen. Santorum may not care about the unemployment rate in this country or the nearly 24 million Americans struggling for work, but Mitt Romney does and is running to get people back to work,” Saul said.
After Santorum’s event, he sought to clear up his remarks, telling reporters that he is concerned about the unemployment rate.
“Of course I care about the unemployment rate, I want the unemployment rate to go down, but I’m saying my candidacy doesn’t hinge on whether the unemployment rate goes up or down,” Santorum said. “Our candidacy is about something that transcends things, about freedom.”
Later, Santorum’s spokesman Hogan Gidley said in a statement to CNN that Romney’s team was “trying to deceive voters.”
“Rick was making the point that the Santorum campaign is not based solely on unemployment rates — it’s based on returning freedom and restoring this country’s greatness — and that it’s a mistake for anyone to try and reduce the idea of America to just the ‘economy.’ Sadly, Mitt Romney thinks this country and this election should be reduced to math, money and spreadsheets,” Gidley said.
Regardless of what polling shows, Santorum remains confident. And he knows the stakes hold in Illinois.
“If we’re able to get out of Illinois with a huge or surprise win, I guarantee you, I guarantee you, that we will win this nomination. We will nominate a conservative, we will beat Barack Obama in the fall election,” he told voters Saturday night in Effingham, Illinois.
And his criticism of Romney appears to be getting more personal.
“It really has to do with what your principles and your core is,” Santorum said Monday in an interview on CBS. “I have a core. I’m someone who has really strong convictions about the limited role of government, about the importance of having a strong defense, you know, lowering taxes and getting regulation down. That’s a sharp contrast with Mitt Romney.”
GOP strategist and CNN contributor Alex Castellanos says to win, Romney needs to think big.
“Romney can put this campaign away only if he elevates his campaign into a cause. Romney’s campaign now is only about why he’s a better businessman than Barack Obama. he is offering a very small campaign to a country craving a big change in direction. And Americans want to be part of something large, not something small,” said Castellanos, who was a media adviser for Romney’s 2008 White House bid but who’s not taking sides this cycle.
“This campaign is his for the taking but Romney won’t put this race away until he offers voters a purpose larger than his campaign provides them today.”
Gingrich made a quick swing through Illinois last week, but those were his last stops in the state. he is concentrating his efforts on Louisiana, which holds its primary on Saturday. Paul made one stop in the state last week as well. But neither campaign is putting any ad money into the state.
Romney is once again pouring big bucks into a crucial state. His campaign and the pro-Romney super PAC “Restore our Future” have spent more than $4 million on broadcast and cable ads.
At the same time, Santorum’s campaign “Red, White and Blue Fund” super PAC that supports him has spent about $530,000 in television time in the state — that equates to about a 7-1 spending advantage for Romney
So what if Santorum pulls the upset in Illinois? it will be costly to Romney, Mackowiak said.
“While Romney does appear the likely nominee, losing Illinois will intensify concerns about Romney, potentially drive Gingrich from the race (forcing a Romney-Santorum head-to-head matchup) and drag out the already costly primary,” said Mackowiak, a former press secretary to Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas and former Sen. Conrad Burns of Montana.
“While Santorum has repeatedly over-performed polling, Romney should win Illinois Tuesday giving him a significant momentum boost and slowing down Santorum’s progress.”
Crowley had a similar take, saying a loss for Romney “would be close to catastrophic for him.”
And a Romney victory?
“A nice win would at least let Romney dust himself off after losses in Alabama and Mississippi,” she said.
Stay tuned. There are many more Tuesdays to come.
CNN Senior Producer Kevin Bohn contributed to this report
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