Tonight, Mitt Romney won Illinois handily. As I write he's currently beating Rick Santorum by well over 10% with less than 30% of the state still to report. Indeed it's another big win for Romney and I think it positions him even better to be the eventual nominee both on mathematics (with the delegate count) and the eventuality (the popular vote/sentiment).
I did learn a few things that I didn't know before tonight's results came in.
Forget about Louisiana, the next most important state is Wisconsin.
As I wrote the other day, April is going to be a great month for Romney by default, but the biggest fight will likely happen on April 3rd, when Wisconsin votes with Maryland and Washington, D.C. Wisconsin is like Illinois in so many ways, but in the context of the GOP Primary, they share a major similarity, they simply don't come with the caveats that came with Michigan or Ohio. If Romney wins Wisconsin, he will win 8 of 8 primary contests in the month of April, and regardless of May being a Santorum-friendly month, by that time, what will have been losses in 10 of the last 11 races, voters will likely get weary with the Santorum's case.
Illinois was first in line to declaring Newt Gingrich as irrelevant.
After the voting was tallied in Illinois, Newt Gingrich came in fourth or last, depending on how you want to look at it. Gingrich had to follow up his Georgia victory on Super Tuesday with a win in either Mississippi and Alabama and he failed to win in either of those. Illinois was the first state to show the consequence of his inability to win in either one of those states. Gathering just 8% of the vote is a double blow, both to his own candidacy and to a lesser extent, Rick Santorum's candidacy. The prevailing notion that Gingrich's support would default to Santorum wasn't supported in Illinois. With just two "Southern" states left, plus Texas, the longer Newt Gingrich stays in this race, not gathering any delegates, you have to ponder what he's doing.
The media is even more fickle than I thought in their coverage of the GOP primary.
Credit to CNN, as they've been the only network to go primarily with straight through primary coverage regardless of changing their "hosts" to keep with the normal TV schedule on CNN. That said, the commentators had taken a completely different air following Romney's big win. Despite Romney winning majorities of delegates even on nights where he was unsuccessful in high-profile states, he was getting no love, and they were talking up the idea of a brokered convention. That apparently all changes with Illinois? Even Erik Erikson of Red State admitted that since Romney won this state handily when no one really had any caveats about his expected performance in this state, shows that he's undoubtedly going to achieve the amount of delegates needed to secure the nomination it's only a matter of when. I'll be watching what the commentary will be following Louisiana's results on Saturday.
Romney's new primary strategy is to speak like he's running in the general.
Mitt Romney used his big win in Illinois to deliver a victory speech that was void of addressing the viability or the general existence of the other GOP candidates but instead chose to really go after the President. Now, he's done this in most of his victory speeches, but it seemed as though he was giving a new speech, equipped with several stinging jokes about the President's background but more so about how Obama's background illustrated his inability to lead. It was what he was addressing to, the vision of what his Presidency would bring to a new economy, and how it will be beneficial to the American people to stop the destruction of the core economic values many conservatives hold dear.
The delegate math narrative is really starting to crumble.
Mitt Romney is likely going to take 43-45 of Illinois' 54 available delegates. Not only is he increasing his share of the total delegates, he's actually starting to make Rick Santorum's share of the total delegates smaller. Now, I've been arguing that if Santorum is going to make the case that this race is indeed about preventing Romney from getting 1144 delegates, he's actually going to have to make huge dents in Romney's delegate share. With Santorum winning only the states where Evangelicals make up 50% of the voting electorate, there simply aren't enough states like that left on the calendar to deprive Romney of the 1144. So what's the point? Illinois was devastating to Santorum for this reason alone, he's getting drubbed in states that have a more mainstream Republican voting electorate, and when he gets drubbed in the popular vote he really gets drubbed in the delegate count. The math hasn't added up for a long time, but when you've got liberal mainstream media commentators resigned to this after cheering this race on as far as it can go, you start to figure out that this delegate deprivation strategy is simply not working.