Elections 2012: Mitt Romney Scores Big Win Over Rick Santorum in Illinois

Mitt Romney became a big winner in the Illinois Republican primary on Tuesday, defeating Rick Santorum.

At a victory celebration in Schaumburg, Ill., Mitt Romney took aim at President Obama, declaring: “We know our future’s brighter than these troubled times.” Photo: BU Interactive News/Flickr

With 95 percent of the votes in Illinois counted, Mitt Romney had 47 percent and Rick Santorum, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, took 35 percent, reports Reuters.

Romney’s remaining rivals, Newt Gingrich, the former U.S. House of Representatives speaker, and libertarian congressman Ron Paul, lagged badly. Gingrich was in fourth place.

Romney addressed his supporters in a hotel ballroom in the Chicago suburb of Schaumburg. “Elections are about choices, and today hundreds of thousands of people in Illinois have joined millions across the country to join our cause,” Romney told addressing a cheering crowd.

After congratulating his rivals he turned his focus to the president. “It’s time to say this word: enough. We’ve had enough,” Romney said.

“We know our future’s brighter than these troubled times. We still believe in America, and we deserve a president who believes in us, and I believe in the American people.”

According to The New York Times, Romney belittled Mr. Obama’s experience as a constitutional law professor at the University of Chicago and as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago.

“I’m offering a real choice and a new beginning,” he said focusing his criticism on President Barack Obama. “I have the vision and the experience to get us out of this mess.”

He said that the president was ill suited to lead the nation to economic prosperity.

According to exit polls Santorum won among voters who said they were evangelical Christians, very conservative or strongly supported the conservative Tea Party movement, but those blocs were smaller than in states where Santorum has done well.

He also won in the rural and western portions of the Illinois.

“We won the areas that conservatives and Republicans populate,” Mr. Santorum told an overflow crowd in Gettysburg. “We’ve got five weeks until a big win and a big delegate sweep in Pennsylvania. We must go out and fight this fight.”

Illinois victory allowed Romney to expand his lead in delegates over Santorum. According to CNN delegate count Romney now has 540 delegates to Santorum’s 239 in the race for the 1,144 needed to win the nomination.

Santorum was not eligible to win many delegates because he failed to meet deadlines to file a slate of delegates in some districts.

Santorum and Gingrich are trying to prevent Romney from capturing a majority of delegates by the time the nominating contests end in June, leaving the choice up for grabs among the party’s mostly conservative delegates heading into the August nominating convention in Tampa, Florida.

Despite his poor result in Illinois, Newt Gingrich pledged to keep running until the convention.

In his interview to Fox News, he questioned Santorum’s ability to mount the strongest challenge to Mr. Romney and called himself the best choice for conservatives.

He said if Romney was unable to capture the delegates needed by the time voting ends in late June Republicans will have to evaluate who should be the nominee.

“If that’s what happens, then we’ll have a real conversation,” Gingrich said on Fox News.

Representative Ron Paul of Texas, who was also running poorly in the Illinois returns, made no appearance.

Meanwhile, major contributors to a key Republican political organization founded by political strategist Karl Rove have boosted their financial support for Mitt Romney. It means that the GOP’s big money may be starting to coalesce around Romney’s candidacy, tells The Huff Post.

Such rich GOP donors as Bob Perry, Philip H. Geier Jr. and Jerry Perenchio together provided much of the $6.4 million in contributions last month to the pro-Romney “super” political committee Restore Our Future.

Romney was aided by more than $29 million worth of ads paid for by Restore Our Future, the super PAC supporting his campaign.

Other GOP candidates have struggled to keep up with the financial support that Romney’s candidacy has enjoyed.

The next contest in the GOP primary will be held in the conservative southern state of Louisiana on Saturday, where Rick Suntorum is expected to show good result.

Then the race then will move to Maryland, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia on April 3 and to five northeastern states, including Santorum’s home state of Pennsylvania, on April 24.

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