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mitt romney in illinois Mitt Romney speaks at his Illinois primary night rally in Schaumburg, Illinois, on March 20. (Photo: JIM YOUNG/REUTERS)

Election 2012: Romney Takes Illinois

Decisive victory gives campaign needed delegate boost

By Natalie Wexler | March 21 , 2012

All eyes were on Illinois yesterday as the state held its Republican presidential primary.

The election was widely seen as a two-man contest between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. Newt Gingrich has focused his campaign's attention on Louisiana, which holds its primary on Saturday. Ron Paul, meanwhile, split his time between Illinois and Louisiana.

In the end, Romney won a decisive victory with 46.7 percent of the vote. Santorum finished second with 35 percent, followed by Paul with 9.3 percent and Gingrich with 8 percent. One percent of voters went for former candidates Rick Perry and Buddy Roemer.

"Elections are about choices," Romney told his supporters at a victory rally in Chicago. "And today, hundreds of thousands of people in Illinois have joined millions of people across the country to join our cause."

The win gives Romney's campaign some momentum — and more importantly delegates. His victory gave him at least 43 of Illinois' 69 delegates. Santorum claimed at least 10 delegates.

The first candidate to reach 1144 delegates will win the nomination. As of Wednesday morning, Romney has 563 and Santorum 263.

Santorum's campaign is focused on winning enough delegates to challenge Romney at the primary. And despite his second place finish, Santorum is looking ahead. The next big prize is Pennsylvania, Santorum's home state, which votes on April 24. It is worth 71 delegates.

“We won the areas [of Illinois] that conservatives and Republicans populate,” Santorum told supporters at an election-night rally in Gettysburg. “We’ve got five weeks until a big win and a big delegate sweep in Pennsylvania. We must go out and fight this fight.”

As both candidates commit themselves to finishing the primary race, voters are worried what that means for the eventual nominee's chance in November.

This Kid Reporter spoke with nine voters in three Chicago suburbs last night. The majority of them thought the long primary will hurt the Republican candidate's chances of winning the general election. They said they thought the candidate’s weaknesses would be revealed, and attack ads will harm their candidacy.

But the more important worry for these voters was the economy.

"The economic recovery, and keeping it underway, is the most important thing," Ralph Keen from Lake Forest, Illinois, said. "The economy is a necessary thing, and until that is fixed everything else is a luxury."

Read more about what Illinois voters thought about the issues and the candidates on the Scholastic News Kids Press Corps Blog!

ELECTION 2012

Scholastic News Kid Reporters are on the campaign trail! Keep up with latest election news on the Election 2012 website.

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