Mitt Romney isn't winning primaries by the element of surprise. He's winning them through overwhelming force.
Romney's victory tonight in Illinois encompassed what Romney has meant to do all along: talk about the economy, shellack opponents in the spending battle, run up a big enough lead in the moderate and persuadable blocs of the party that the conservative holdouts who have flailed through numerous alternatives don't pose a devastating challenge.
He's even managed to pivot to President Obama the last several days, an elusive mission this long nominating season.
Louisiana's March 24 primary may serve to reinforce the damaging notion that Romney will continue to struggle in the South. The next true test comes in Wisconsin on April 3, another Midwestern state where Rick Santorum's populist message could fly. But the Badger State could be the final stand for Santorum's viability argument. Indeed, Romney wasted scant breath in his victory speech on primary-focused rhetoric.
Illinois is famous for the licenses it has historically taken with best practices at polling places and in counting rooms. Tonight, it issued Romney a license of his own: the ability to focus on November.
-- Jim O'Sullivan
NATIONAL JOURNAL’S PRIMARY REPORT
Romney Wins Illinois Primary
[National Journal, 3/20/12] Romney's victory followed his sweep of Puerto Rico on Sunday and gave the front-runner renewed momentum and a strong claim on 54 additional delegates, which will be awarded on a proportional basis.
Mitt Romney Won Illinois. So What?
[Washington Post, 3/20/12] Romney's win in Illinois is a blessing in that it will extend his delegate lead, but it likely won't be enough to ensure a win for him in Louisiana. That means even if he is the clear frontrunner, the race will go on, with Romney's weakness in the South fodder for his opponents' campaigns.
Exit Polls: Illinois Voters More Tailored to Romney
[National Journal, 3/20/12] Exit polls in Illinois reveal an electorate almost tailor-made to support Romney, with voters from the suburbs making up almost 70 percent of the electorate, and more than a third of voters reporting they made $100,000 a year or more - both demographics that have previously supported Romney.
Santorum Stokes GOP Divisions in Run-Up to Illinois Primary
[National Journal, 3/20/12] Santorum is hoping out loud that Illinois voters will sort themselves into conservatives versus moderates, urbanites versus rural residents – and produce an outcome in Tuesday’s primary that shows he and his campaign reflect the true heart of the GOP.
Santorum Outgunned 7 to 1 in Illinois, 21 to 1 in Chicago Media Market
[Politico, 3/19/12] Santorum was outspent by huge margins in the Prairie State in the run-up to today’s primary. In the Chicagoland area, Romney and his super PAC have outspent Santorum and his super PAC 21-to-1. In the rest of the state, that margin is at 7-to-1. This morning on MSNBC, Obama adviser David Axelrod said that the bombardment of negative ads, however, will lead to lower voter turnout.
Romney Pivots from Jobs to Gas
[Wall Street Journal, 3/20/12] An improving job market is prompting Mitt Romney to scrap his emphasis on the unemployment rate and to focus on rising gas prices and government regulation as evidence that President Obama has mismanaged the economy.
Record Low Turnout for Presidential Primary in Chicago
[Chicago Tribune, 3/20/12] In Obama's hometown, Republican voter turnout was lower than it's ever been. This may be the result of the GOP candidates' campaigns focusing on other areas, with Romney campaigning hard in the Chicago suburbs and Santorum in Southern Illinois.
How Much Fundraising Have the Presidential Candidates Done?
[National Journal, 3/19/12] Check out National Journal’s graphical look at what the GOP presidential candidates and President Obama have hauled in dating back to the second quarter of 2011.
Newt Gingrich’s Twin Campaigns
[Politico, 3/20/12] Newt's and Callista’s cheery effort on the trail masks a different campaign, one that is slowly expiring: cash is running low, volunteers are griping about not getting paid and aides are trying to convince themselves as much as the press that there is a path forward.
Romney Takes Wyoming Delegate From Santorum
[Associated Press, 3/20/12] The Romney campaign successfully challenged a Wyoming delegate, knocking Santorum's Cowboy State delegate count to two and boosting Romney's to eight.
Santorum’s Journey to Devout Catholicism
[Washington Post, 3/19/12] As Santorum grew up he became ever more devoutly Catholic, eventually embracing the Catholicism of Opus Dei, a group defined by the intensity with which followers are urged to live out church doctrine. The candidate’s religious journey is all the more relevant as he has vigorously asserted a role for religion in government.
Romney Accuses Obama of ‘Assault’ on Economic Freedom
[National Journal, 3/19/12] During an event in Springfield, Ill., on Monday morning, Romney blamed the Obama administration’s “assault on our economic freedom” for the “tepid” recovery. However, he gave few specifics on how he would address the economy as president.
Santorum: ‘I Don’t Care What the Unemployment Rate is Going to Be’
[National Journal, 3/19/12] Santorum came under fire on Monday for saying that the unemployment rate and economic growth are secondary issues to that of freedom in his campaign, a statement that Romney's campaign quickly seized on as being tone-deaf to the plight of out-of-work Americans.
Column: On Trail, a Concrete Deficit Plan is Hard to Find
[Wall Street Journal, 3/19/12] Gerald Seib writes that deficit rhetoric has faded from the GOP presidential campaign. Indeed, one analysis of candidates’ proposals for actually handling the red ink shows how vague their deficit-cutting plans are – and suggests some proposals would actually drive up the national debt.
Santorum's Mystery Kitchen Cabinet: Who Advises Him Besides Himself?
[National Journal, 3/19/12] The Republican presidential candidate and his campaign have always touted their lean political operation, and the principle apparently applies to the policy side of his campaign as well. National Journal's Naureen Khan reports on Santorum's elusive advisors.
Some Illinois Ballots Too Big For Their Scanners
[ABC News, 3/20/12] In a flaw that will likely slow down the vote counting tonight, some ballots in Illinois were the wrong size, causing elections officials to fill out replacement ballots by hand.
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