Live-blogging the GOP primary in Illinois

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6:31 p.m. – Alex Massie calls it:

This race is over. Readers know this and so do journalists. There’s just a reluctance to admit that it’s over while there’s any speck of hope it might not be. Primary season is a habit it’s tough to break but at some point you gotta do it and admit that all the fancy ploys and plots spun to keep it going are so much hokum in a season already amply supplied with the stuff.

6:30 p.m. – Once Louisiana is out of the way, the primary timetable becomes more favorable to Romney. On April 3, there are votes in Maryland, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia. Santorum will be hoping to win the first two states, although he’s far from a sure thing in either place. In D.C., he’s not even on the ballot. Then there is a three week break before the primaries in Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. If Romney could sweep the Northeast except for Santorum’s home state of Pennsylvania, he would be looking very good.

6:27 p.m. – Silver expects a Romney victory today:

Illinois had appeared to offer Mr. Santorum a chance at a breakthrough. Instead, unless the polls are very wrong, it may represent a breakthrough of sorts for Mr. Romney – by far his biggest delegate grab and margin of victory in a Midwestern state so far.

6:25 p.m. – Blumenthal studies the polls:

If Romney is able to challenge Santorum even in the rural congressional districts, he could score a big win in the battle for momentum and delegates on Tuesday.

5:38 p.m. – Dave Wiegel notes Santorum’s new spin:

Listen closely to the Team Santorum spin these days and you hear hints that the campaign is following the Ron Paul songbook, reading delegate rules and finding ways that a good grassroots campaign can peel off delegates that other candidates have “won.”

10:03 a.m. – “This is someone who doesn’t have a core. He’s been on both sides of almost every single issue in the past 10 years.” — Rick Santorum, on CBS’s This Morning, about Mitt Romney.

9:46 a.m. – Illinois ballot deal saved Mitt: “The problems stem from the campaign relying on Illinois state Treasurer Dan Rutherford. He struggled to acquire enough signatures to qualify for Romney’s delegates and then had the statement of candidacy notarized out of state, a violation of state election rules. … It began when Romney’s campaign challenged the Santorum petitions in 10 of the 14 congressional districts in which the former Pennsylvania senator submitted delegate slates. … the Santorum campaign counter-challenged, pointing out the “fatal error” of the Romney petitions being notarized in Massachusetts instead of Illinois, said Santorum’s Illinois state director, Jon Zahm.”

9:38 a.m. – Romney is headed for a blowout victory in Illinois on Tuesday. He leads with 45% to 30% for Rick Santorum, 12% for Newt Gingrich, and 10% for Ron Paul.

Sunday – “If we’re able to come out of Illinois with a huge or surprise win, I guarantee you, I guarantee you that we will win this nomination.” — Rick Santorum, quoted by NBC News.

Sunday – The Republican presidential front-runners wooed conservative voters Saturday as they launched an ambitious ground game across Downstate Illinois, a region that has emerged as crucial in deciding the winner of the state’s primary. Rick Santorum held rallies in southern Illinois, seeking to play up his strengths as a socially conservative former Pennsylvania senator in the stretch of coal country that also constitutes the state’s BibleBelt.

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Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.