Illinois Republicans “delivered a decisive victory to Mitt Romney in the state’s presidential primary Tuesday, crushing Rick Santorum in what amounted to the first big-state head-to-head contest among the front-runners for the GOP nomination,” the Chicago Tribune reports.
“Even more important for Romney, he swamped Santorum by winning 39 of the 54 elected delegates up for grabs in the state. Santorum had only five, though votes were still being counted in several Downstate congressional districts where he ran strongest.”
Chicago Sun Times: “Romney’s team knew that the suburbs were key — and scheduled a series of stops in the northwest suburbs in the closing days of the Illinois campaign.”
Has Romney wrapped up the nomination?
Mark Halperin thinks so: “Romney’s Illinois win could be the beginning of the end of the Republican nomination fight. In order to get there, he faces two challenges: He’ll have to convince on-the-sidelines Republicans to endorse his candidacy, contribute to his campaign, and muscle Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich out of the race. And he’ll also have to persuade the media to reflect the reality that Romney is the only candidate who can win… Santorum probably has one more chance to change the paradigm with a win in Wisconsin on April 3, after an expected victory in Louisiana on Saturday.”
As does Fred Barnes: “Romney is close to finishing off his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination, talk of a brokered GOP convention in August, and the prospect of a new candidate suddenly entering the contest.”
Yet there is still no love for Romney, says William Kristol.
“Watching Romney’s victory speech in Illinois didn’t reassure me about his chances against President Obama. (Watch it yourself to see if I’m being unfair.) Romney’s remarks consisted basically of the claim that the business of America is business, that he’s a businessman who understands business, and that we need ‘economic freedom’ not for the sake of freedom but to allow business to fuel the economy. It’s true that Romney will have plenty of time to improve for the general election, if, as seems likely (but still not inevitable!), he wins the nomination. But if he sticks with this core message, we’d better hope Republicans and independents are really determined to get rid of Barack Obama.”