Romney wins convincingly in Illinois
DAYTONA BEACH SHORES -- With a convincing win in Tuesday's Illinois primary, Mitt Romney further extended his delegate lead over his principal rival, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum. Coming in the wake of Romney's total victory in Puerto Rico last Sunday, which added another 20 delegates to his total, Romney is looking like a lock for the Republican nomination.
Interestingly, voters in Illinois must in effect vote twice. First they vote for their preferred candidate. This, in Illinois, is known as the "Beauty Contest." Then they must vote again for as many as two, three or even four pledged delegates (depending on the district) representing each of the 54 districts which are at risk in this election. Each district is a winner-take-all proposition.
Afterwards, the delegates themselves cast votes for the candidates which won their districts. Actually Illinois has a total of 69 delegates. of those not chosen in today's primary, three are senior elected state Republican leaders and the remainder are to be elected at the state Republican Party convention.
It seems probable that all or nearly all of these will be for Romney. Santorum gave Romney a solid run in Illinois but in the end he lost both the beauty contest and the more important contest for delegates. Romney won the popular vote by -- as of this writing with 95% of the precincts reporting -- 47 % to 35%, with Paul and Gingrich getting 9% and 8%, respectively.
Romney needed a big win in Illinois and he got it.
On the flip side of that coin, Illinois turned out to be yet another case in which Santorum failed to win in a big state. This time he failed to win in what was essentially a two-man race as Gingrich did little or no campaigning in Illinois and Ron Paul did even less.
In fact, Gingrich put forth so little effort that a number of his supporters in more conservative southern Illinois defected to Santorum at the last minute.
It didn't help.
In the more significant contest for delegates, Santorum never really had a chance because his poor campaign organization failed to get him registered in ten of the state's congressional districts, guaranteeing that the delegates chosen in those districts would go to Romney. Given that there were 54 delegates to be chosen, Santorum was almost 18% behind in delegate count before the first vote was cast.
The complete delegate split will not be clear until tomorrow but what is clear is that Romney has moved another state into the win column and added to his lead in delegates.
Looking ahead, we have now completed only a little over half the GOP primaries and caucuses (Seems like they've been going on forever, doesn't it?) Santorum will continue in the race.
Santorum will probably do very well in the upcoming primary in very conservative Louisiana but that may be his last big hurrah until Pennsylvania and Texas. Louisiana will give him more artificial media momentum but will mean little or nothing beyond that.
From Romney's perspective, as March moves to a close, things are looking much better. He should extend his lead substantially as a result of the primaries on April 3rd in Maryland, the District of Columbia and Wisconsin, all of which are winner-take-all contests.
With the coming of April, we will see the end of the Republican National Committee's ill-advised and divisive scheme to extend the primaries through the awarding of delegates via proportional representation.
As a larger number of states voting after April first tend to support Romney, his delegates totals should begin to climb at Santorum's expense pretty quickly.
There is still a long way to go. But, in my opinion and barring catastrophe, the race for the nomination is over. Romney has won.
Beginning with the April 3 contests, it is time for Romney to shift away from attacking his GOP opponents and to focus more on attacks on Obama and on his own remedies for the nation's ills.