San­to­rum’s win­dow clos­ing af­ter Illi­nois

With win, Rom­ney nears in­evitabil­ity

The Washington Times Daily - - Front Page - BY SETH MCLAUGH­LIN

SCHAUM­BURG, ILL. | Mitt Rom­ney notched an­other vic­tory in the Re­pub­li­can pri­maries Tues­day, de­feat­ing Rick San­to­rum in Illi­nois and adding to the grow­ing sense of in­evitabil­ity that he will be the GOP nom­i­nee to face Pres­i­dent Obama in the fall.

In win­ning Illi­nois, he un­der­cuts Mr. San­to­rum’s con­tention that the long­time GOP front-run­ner can’t seal the deal with con­ser­va­tives in the coun­try’s heart­land or in the Deep South. Mr. Rom­ney gets a chance to re­fute the lat­ter charge Satur­day in the Louisiana pri­mary.

The sus­pense ended early for the Rom­ney sup­port­ers gath­ered here for an elec­tion night cel­e­bra­tion at a con­ven­tion cen­ter in the Chicago sub­urbs. Less than an hour af­ter the polls

closed and with less than 10 per­cent of the precincts counted, Fox News and then the As­so­ci­ated Press called the race.

With 68 per­cent of the votes counted, the AP had Mr. Rom­ney lead­ing Mr. San­to­rum, 47 per­cent to 35 per­cent. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas and for­mer House Speaker Newt Gin­grich trailed with 9 per­cent and 8 per­cent, re­spec­tively.

Mr. Rom­ney be­gan his vic­tory night speech by con­grat­u­lat­ing his GOP ri­vals on a “hard­fought con­test” be­fore turn­ing his at­ten­tion to Pres­i­dent Obama.

“Tonight we thank the peo­ple of Illi­nois for their vote and for this ex­tra­or­di­nary vic­tory,” Mr. Rom­ney said, be­fore ac­cus­ing the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion of lead­ing an as­sault on the na­tion’s free­dom, weak­en­ing the eco­nomic re­cov­ery and “lead­ing from be­hind” around the world.

He also said that the 25 years he spent in busi­ness makes him bet­ter equipped to em­brace the poli­cies needed to strengthen the econ­omy — some­thing he said that Mr. Obama never learned as a com­mu­nity or­ga­nizer or teach­ing con­sti­tu­tional law at the Univer­sity of Chicago.

Tues­day’s re­sults are sure to fuel the sense among those in the anti-rom­ney wing of the Re­pub­li­can Party that the only way re­main­ing to deny the for­mer gov­er­nor the GOP nom­i­na­tion is to stop him from get­ting the 1,144 del­e­gates needed be­fore the Re­pub­li­can Na­tional Con­ven­tion in Tampa, Fla., in late Au­gust.

Fall­ing short, Mr. San­to­rum and oth­ers have said, would mean Mr. Rom­ney is an un­ac­cept­ably flawed can­di­date and would open the door for del­e­gates at the con­ven­tion to tap a con­ser­va­tive al­ter­na­tive to the for­mer Mas­sachusetts gov­er­nor.

Mr. Rom­ney rode some mo­men­tum into Illi­nois af­ter eas­ily win­ning all of Puerto Rico’s 20 del­e­gates in the ter­ri­tory’s pri­mary Sun­day.

Mr. San­to­rum, who also cam­paigned ex­ten­sively on the Caribbean is­land be­fore turn­ing his at­ten­tion to Illi­nois, was in Penn­syl­va­nia as the re­sults were an­nounced Tues­day night.

Be­fore a room of cheer­ing sup­port­ers, he vowed to con­tinue. “Big things are at stake in this elec­tion,” he said. “Sad­dle up.”

Mr. Gin­grich was cam­paign­ing in Louisiana and Mr. Paul, who made one stop here last week, also plans to head to that state.

Mr. Rom­ney led con­sis­tently in the polls in the days be­fore the Illi­nois vote, but Mr. San­to­rum held out hope that he could pull an up­set and re­in­force doubts about Mr. Rom­ney’s strength in a head-to-head matchup with Mr. Obama.

A Chicago Tri­bune poll this month showed Mr. San­to­rum within 4 points of Mr. Rom­ney. But since then, de­spite his head­line-grab­bing vic­to­ries in the Alabama and Mis­sis­sippi pri­maries last week, the for­mer se­na­tor from Penn­syl­va­nia has seen his stock drop while Mr. Rom­ney’s lead has risen.

The San­to­rum cam­paign didn’t help it­self with its fail­ure to fill out full del­e­gate slates in all of the state’s 18 con­gres­sional dis­tricts. As a re­sult, Mr. San­to­rum was el­i­gi­ble to col­lect at most 44 del­e­gates, while the rest of the field is el­i­gi­ble for all 54.

Po­lit­i­cal pun­dits said low voter turnout could have been prob­lem­atic for Mr. Rom­ney and ben­e­fi­cial for Mr. San­to­rum, who has had a much eas­ier time con­nect­ing with self-iden­ti­fied “very con­ser­va­tive” vot­ers, evan­gel­i­cal or born-again Chris­tians and those who iden­tify with the tea party move­ment.

Mr. Rom­ney’s suc­cess, mean­while, has largely been driven by vot­ers who are at­tracted to his busi­ness back­ground and the sense that he presents Repub­li­cans with the best chance of knock­ing off Mr. Obama in a gen­eral elec­tion. Exit polls showed that Mr. San­to­rum out­per­formed Mr. Rom­ney again among self-iden­ti­fied evan­gel­i­cal and born-again Chris­tians, but those vot­ers con­sti­tuted a much smaller slice of the elec­torate.

Mr. Rom­ney, mean­while, won among those who “strongly sup­port” the tea party move­ment — some­thing he didn’t do in ei­ther of the Deep South pri­maries last week.

As usual, Mr. Rom­ney had the up­per hand on the air­waves.

The As­so­ci­ated Press re­ported Tues­day that his cam­paign and Re­store Our Fu­ture, the su­per PAC that sup­ports him, out­spent the San­to­rum cam­paign, and the su­per PAC aligned with him, $3.5 mil­lion to $500,000.

The ad­van­tage was clear, as Mr. Rom­ney flooded the state with tele­vi­sion com­mer­cials. In one, Mr. San­to­rum was de­scribed as an “eco­nomic light­weight” — a catch­phrase that has be­come a go-to at­tack for the Re­pub­li­can front-run­ner.

“Who can turn around the econ­omy and de­feat Barack Obama? Not Rick San­to­rum,” the ad’s nar­ra­tor says.

On Thurs­day, Mr. San­to­rum plans to visit Louisiana, where 46 del­e­gates will be cho­sen.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Re­pub­li­can pres­i­den­tial hopeful Rick San­to­rum speaks Tues­day at a pri­mary-elec­tion night rally in Get­tys­burg, Pa. Re­sults from the Illi­nois GOP pri­mary were not what the for­mer Penn­syl­va­nia se­na­tor was hop­ing for, com­ing in a dis­tant sec­ond be­hind his chief ri­val, Mitt Rom­ney.

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