Mitt Romney had Illinois on lockdown well ahead of its primary contest.
The former Massachussets governor earned the endorsement of the state's most popular moderate Republican, Mark Kirk, and he laid the groudwork for an election night win by getting on the ballot early.
Now, just days before the primary, it appears that Romney's grasp on the state could be in jeopardy because of his campaign's ineptitude, says BuzzFeed.com's Zeke Miller.
Miller wrote a piece entitled "How Romeny Gave Rick Santorum An Opening in Illinois" that talks about how Romney's Illinois chief, Treasurer D"took his foot off of Santorum's throat" by withdrawing challenges to the former Pennsylvania Senator's late inclusion on the Illinois ballot.
But Illinois Treasurer and Romney state chairman Dan Rutherford withdrew challenges in those districts, allowing Santorum the opportunity to win 30 delegates he would have missed out on.
The decision produced a quiet storm of outrage among Romney's allies in the state, who were bewildered by the decision to make a slam-dunk race competitive, and to grant an opening in the desperate scramble to reach the 1,144 delegates required for the Republican nomination.
"When there is a challenge filed because a campaign doesn't file the required number of signatures, it’s pretty much a no brainer," said a senior Romney supporter in Illinois. "The conservative folks started screaming bloody murder, and Rutherford caved."
"This isn't about Romney, it’s about Rutherford," he said.
Rutherford is thought to be planning to seek his party's nomination for governor in 2014, and Romney's other local allies accuse him of putting his interests above the candidate's, and ingratiating himself to Santorum-supporting conservative activists.
Now that Santorum has become a real impediment to Romney's quest to collect the requisite number of delegates to earn the GOP nomination, the issue of Illinois has become a real one.