Romney beat Rick Santorum by double digits in Tuesday's primary.
By Gil Kaufman
Mitt Romney strung together two solid victories in a row on Tuesday night when he pulled off a decisive win in the Illinois presidential primary, the latest in a series of "must-win" contests in the GOP race to the White House.
The former Massachusetts governor is likely to pull in at least 41 of the 54 delegates at stake following his win over rival Rick Santorum, whom he beat by a 47 to 35 percent margin. The other two candidates in the race, Texas congressman Ron Paul and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich hardly campaigned in the state and came in a distant third and fourth, with, respectively, 9 and 8 percent of the vote.
"We thank the people of Illinois for this extraordinary victory," Romney said to supporters gathered in the Chicago suburb of Schaumburg, according to CNN. "Elections are about choices. Today, hundreds of thousands of people in Illinois joined millions of people in this country in this cause." If he gets 41 delegates, Romney's total to date is 562, which puts him halfway toward the goal of 1,144 needed to clinch the GOP nomination.
Once again, he turned his attention away from his fellow candidates and onto President Obama in his victory speech, saying, "It's time to say this word: enough. We've had enough ... 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."
Romney was feeling bullish after his huge victory in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico on Saturday, where he took more than 83 percent of the vote and likely all 20 delegates. Pundits said he needed a solid victory in Obama's former home state in order to tamp down the growing buzz about the potential for a contested GOP convention in August should he fail to get enough delegates to close the deal before then.
Though he had a rough week — which included gaffes in P.R. in which he said the nation needs to adopt English as its official language to gain statehood and a remark on Monday in which he claimed the unemployment rate "doesn't matter to me" — Santorum was still defiant after his Illinois loss.
"This is an election about fundamental and foundational things," the former Pennsylvania senator said during a gathering in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. "This is an election about not who's the best person to manage Washington or manage the economy. We don't need a manager, we need someone who's going to pull government up by the roots and do something to liberate the private sector in America."
The race now moves on to Louisiana on Saturday, where, once again, Romney will attempt to prove that he can appeal to the party's conservative base and that he can win in the South.
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