Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney won the Illinois primary Tuesday, beating conservative rival Rick Santorum for a second time in less than a week and strengthening his fire wall in the Midwest, according to Fox News.
The victory came on top of Romney’s sweep of Puerto Rico on Sunday and gave the front-runner renewed momentum, not to mention a strong claim on 54 additional delegates, which will be awarded on a proportional basis.
It was a setback for Santorum and his efforts to be seen as a viable alternative to Romney, the former governor of liberal-leaning Massachusetts who has taken moderate positions on major issues in the past. Santorum won important victories in Mississippi and Alabama last week, but has yet to prove that he can win in states where religious and non-college educated voters hold less sway than they do in the Deep South.
The loss comes on top of earlier defeats to Romney in Ohio and Michigan, which, like Illinois, have more affluent, center-right and less-religious primary voters. Tuesday's outcome, plus a series of well-publicized gaffes that knocked the former Pennsylvania senator off message in recent days, bolsters the case of Republicans who say Santorum should get out of the race and allow Romney to focus on the fall contest against President Obama.
Candidates Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker from Georgia, and Ron Paul, a House member from Texas, did not compete in Illinois.
Illinois will send 69 delegates to the Republican convention in August, and 54 will be allotted according to the primary results. Going into Tuesday’s contest, Romney had 522 delegates, Santorum had 252, Gingrich had 136 and Paul had 50, according to the Associated Press delegate count.