Romney wins big in Illinois, but GOP race continues

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney garnered a decisive victory in the Illinois primary Tuesday night, beating his chief rival Rick Santorum by nearly 12 percentage points.

Yet even with Romney’s strong performance and his growing delegate-count advantage, the Republican nomination fight looks poised to continue well into spring as none of his competitors have indicated that they might drop out of the contest anytime soon.

Even while fading to second place after polls earlier this month showed a tight contest in Illinois, Santorum was far from sullen in the wake of Tuesday’s results as he highlighted his strength among conservative voters in that state.

“We’re going to win downstate, we’re going to win central Illinois, we’re going to win western Illinois. We won the areas that conservatives and Republicans populate,” Santorum told supporters in Pennsylvania Tuesday evening. “We’re very happy about that, we’re very happy about the delegates we’re going to get, too.”

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Santorum is on track to win 12 delegates in Illinois, compared to the 42 delegates for Romney. That delegate disparity is key for all candidates as they strive for the 1,144 needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination.

With his win in Illinois following a commanding victory in Puerto Rico over the weekend, Romney’s delegate count stands at 563, according to the Associated Press, which is almost halfway to the total needed. Meanwhile, Santorum is second at 263, followed by Newt Gingrich 135 and Ron Paul at 50.

As Romney continues to build his delegate tally, the hopes of the other candidates to surpass him grow dimmer. But campaign finance reports released Wednesday show Santorum’s campaign holding strong on the fundraising front, pulling in $8.9 million for February, compared to the $11.5 million for Romney.

Next up for the Republican presidential field is the Louisiana primary on Saturday.

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