Illinois Primary Gains Clout as Must-Win for Romney

Thursday, 08 Mar 2012 05:21 PM

By Greg McDonald

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The Illinois primary is shaping up to be one of the most important political contests in the state in years after Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney failed to deliver a knockout punch to his rivals on Super Tuesday.

Faced with potential losses in several Southern primaries this weekend and next week, the Romney campaign is looking at the March 20 contest in Illinois as a must win — not only because of its 69 delegates but also because it is President Barack Obama’s home state.

A win in Obama’s backyard could help solidify Romney’s support among wary Republicans who have been reluctant to embrace him, his supporters told the Chicago Tribune.

“It’s exciting,” state GOP Chairman Pat Brady, a Romney supporter, told the Tribune. “Illinois will be important. We’re the only game in town that day.”

Romney put up ads in Chicago and in other key markets around the state immediately after Super Tuesday. Although he was declared the overall winner coming out of the 10-state contest with 212 delegates, his margin of victory was too slim to force rivals Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, and Ron Paul out of the race.

The Prairie State hasn’t played host to a crucial nomination fight since 1988, when Vice President George H.W. Bush drove Sen. Bob Dole out of the race with a primary win there. Bush went on to win the state in the general election, beating Democrat Michael Dukakis. That was the last time that the state supported a Republican for president, the Tribune report noted.

Romney supporters are looking for history to repeat itself in the Land of Lincoln and lift Romney closer to the 1,144 delegates he needs to win the party’s nomination.

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