Mattie Gibson casts her ballot at South Chicago Dodge Chrysler Jeep in the state primary March 20, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois.
Here’s what the national media have to say about Tuesday’s Republican presidential primary in Illinois:
Mitt Romney won big in Illinois -- double digits. He claimed the breakout victory many analysts thought he needed and he urged Republican voters to come on board for his nomination. "Each day we move closer not just to victory but to a better America," the former Massachusetts governor told the crowd. "Join us!"
A 12-point win is always nice, and the delegates Romney collected Tuesday night add to his already impressive margin, but as impressive as the numbers looked, in reality his Illinois triumph was something of an "ehh" moment.
As we noted Tuesday, Illinois may look diverse on a map (10 of Patchwork Nation's 12 county types are present in the state), but when you look at the population counts, the state was made for Romney. Some 81 percent of the state's population lives in the four county types that have been the best for Romney in the nominating contests: the Industrial Metropolises, Monied Burbs, Boom Towns, and Campus and Careers counties.
Romney has won the overall vote in those county types in 2012's nominating contests, and he won them all in Illinois.
Little changed for Romney in terms of the ultimate delegate math — he won roughly what he was expected to, and his path forward remains about the same as where it was. He needs to win just south of 50 percent of the remaining delegates to get the GOP nomination. His win was not a knockout, and Santorum — as well as Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul — will keep going.
Even so, this was an important pivot point for Romney, who seemed noticeably more at ease in an election night speech that made no mention of his rivals and that sounded much more like a general-election message than the ones he’s delivered on past primary nights.
For Romney, however, this was about more than just numbers. After squeaker victories over Santorum in Michigan and Ohio, he needed to show that he could kindle enough voter enthusiasm for a big win outside his Northeastern power base.
On Tuesday, he got it. For the first time since long-ago Florida, the former Massachusetts governor demonstrated that he could win as big as he spends.
Romney won many of the populous suburban counties in the Chicago area, while Santorum took rural areas in the south and west. Romney still remains far from the winning threshold of 1,144 delegates, which means the GOP race will probably continue for weeks.
For Santorum, Illinois was a dismal end to an unhappy week.
Just seven days earlier, the former senator from Pennsylvania had won surprising victories in Mississippi and Alabama. But after that, he stumbled.
He left Illinois -- a state where he had a chance to beat Romney -- and spent parts of two valuable days campaigning in Puerto Rico, where he had none.
When Tuesday was over, Santorum appeared to have lost in both places. He was already ineligible for 10 of Illinois’ delegates, because he had not filed the correct paperwork.
DEFIANTLY AVOIDING THE SUFJAN STEVENS THEME
Your Illinois ‘Lincoln Primary’ Open Thread
Did you hear that there’s a political primary in Illinois tonight, even though Mitt Romney has pretty much mathematically locked up the nomination? This is a thing you will want to type about! Illinois is a fascinating state: There’s a big city and then some wingnuts out in the countryside, just as there in every other goddamn state. Mitt Romney could win, or Rick Santorum could! Or Newt! (Newt Gingrich is a politician from the 80s and 90s who is now running for president.) Here is your open thread; please monitor it for communists or racists, like Robert De Niro. Polls close at 8:00 American time.
Mitt Romney and his allies came into Illinois with a mission to put this primary contest away, once and for all. And, it looks like they just might have finally done it.
Coming off their big delegate haul in Puerto Rico, Romney leaves Illinois not only with another ”W” in the win column, but with another large chunk of delegates. According to ABC News’ estimate, Romney netted 41 delegates in Illinois compared to 10 for Rick Santorum, and there are a few more delegates yet to be allocated.
In his speech in suburban Chicago last night, Romney made it clear that he is more than ready to turn the page, and turn his focus onto the general election.
"Tonight is primary but November is a general election,” he said. “And we’re going to face a defining decision as a people. The choice will not be about party or even personality. This election will be about principle."
"Our economic freedom will be on the ballot," said Romney. "I’m offering a real choice and a new beginning. I’m running for president because I have the experience and the vision to get us out of this mess."
This was also a much more optimistic Romney than we’ve seen lately. He talked about protecting the hopes of Americans with dreams and a “future that is brighter in these troubled times."
His new tone is in sharp contrast to the boatload of negative ads he and his allies ran here in Illinois. It’s also a sign that the campaign understands the importance of giving voters something to vote for instead of just telling them who they should vote against.