In less than an hour after the polls closed in Illinois on Tuesday evening, Mitt Romney was declared the winner of the state’s GOP presidential primary.
“Thank you, Illinois. What a night,” Romney shouted to his supporters gathered in Schaumburg, Ill. “Tonight, we thank the people of Illinois for their vote and for this extraordinary victory.”
With all of Illinois’ top Republicans in his corner, his outspending Rick Santorum 21-to-1 and the super delegates all but assured, Romney thumped Santorum 48 to 35 percent.
Santorum was also handicapped in four of the state’s 18 congressional districts, where he had no delegates on the ballot.
Even so, Santorum, addressing an audience in Pennsylvania, his home state where he hopes to recoup from the setback in the Midwest, declared after congratulating Romney, “We’re going to win downstate [Illinois]; we’re going to win central Illinois; we’re going to win western Illinois, and we’re happy about the delegates we’re going to get, too.”
Santorum can’t be that happy since he’ll be lucky to add a dozen delegates to his count, which totals 252, according to AP, though he disputes it and says he has 311. Tuesday evening, CNN had Romney at 559 delegates, which is a few more than the AP’s figure at 522.
Whatever Romney’s total, he is far ahead of Santorum, Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich combined, and just a little over halfway to the 1,144 he needs for the nomination and an opportunity to face off against President Barack Obama.
Romney wasted no time voicing his anticipation of that encounter in Obama’s backyard. He boasted about his business background, suggesting that Obama “can’t learn that teaching constitutional law at the University of Chicago. You can’t even learn that as a community organizer.”
The next primaries are in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Louisiana, and Santorum hopes to improve his chances before banking on taking Pennsylvania next month.