After Illinois Victory, Romney Tries to Turn Focus to General Election

BY Christina Bellantoni and Terence Burlij  March 21, 2012 at 9:11 AM EST

Mitt Romney; photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Mitt Romney greets supporters during a victory party Tuesday in Schaumburg, Ill. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

UPDATED | 12:09 p.m.

A nearly 12-point rout, check.

Amassing a bigger delegate lead, check.

Aggressively targeting President Obama in his victory speech, check.

Mitt Romney did what he needed to do Tuesday in Illinois by decisively beating Rick Santorum by more than 100,000 votes. Newt Gingrich placed a distant fourth place behind Texas Rep. Ron Paul.

But the former Massachusetts governor remains in the same place having massively outspent his foes and still facing a slew of primary contests that will prevent him from sealing the deal.

Still, he only mentioned his GOP rivals Tuesday night long enough to congratulate them on their campaign efforts in Illinois before turning his focus sharply to the president.

“This simple truth is that this president doesn’t understand the genius of America’s economy — or the secret of the American economic success story,” Romney told a crowd of supporters in Schaumburg, Ill. “The American economy is fueled by freedom.”

In his analysis Tuesday night, Terence wrote that Romney again outperformed his rivals in the cities and suburban areas while Santorum did better among rural voters.

You can watch Romney’s victory speech below.

Or click here to view his speech and Santorum’s concession.

See the full results in our Vote 2012 Map Center.

A total of 54 delegates were at stake in Illinois, but Santorum was ineligible for at least 10 of them because his campaign failed to submit the necessary paperwork.

According to the Associated Press, Romney picked up 43 delegates in Illinois, while Santorum added 10.

Patchwork Nation’s Dante Chinni (@dchinni) previewed the contest with a look at Illinois’ 13 million people — 8 million of whom live in Romney strongholds. The small-town areas where Santorum’s appeal to lower-income, blue-collar workers has struck a chord make up almost half of the state’s counties. But they only hold about 14 percent of Illinois’s population.

JEB FOR MITT

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush endorsed Mitt Romney Wednesday, giving the GOP frontrunner an added boost following his Illinois victory.

“Congratulations to Governor Mitt Romney on his win last night and to all the candidates for a hard fought, thoughtful debate and primary season,” Bush said in a statement.

“Primary elections have been held in thirty-four states, and now is the time for Republicans to unite behind Governor Romney and take our message of fiscal conservatism and job creation to all voters this fall,” he added.

“I am endorsing Mitt Romney for our Party’s nomination. We face huge challenges, and we need a leader who understands the economy, recognizes more government regulation is not the answer, believes in entrepreneurial capitalism and works to ensure that all Americans have the opportunity to succeed.”

The blessing from Bush comes as Romney continues to build his delegate advantage over chief rival Rick Santorum, but remains far off from the 1,144 needed to clinch the nomination.

Bush, the son of former President George H.W. Bush and the brother of former President George W. Bush, served two terms as Florida governor from 1999 to 2007, and remains a popular figure in the Republican Party. His name had been cited as a potential late entrant into the GOP contest earlier in the year, but he rejected calls for him to do so.

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE BENJAMINS

The candidates and super PACs were required to file their February campaign finance reports Tuesday.

Romney raised $11.5 million and has more than $7 million in the bank.

Santorum raised $9 million and had $2.6 million in the bank at the end of February. He had nearly $1 million in debt.

Paul raised $3.3 million and has $1.4 million in the bank.

Gingrich raised $2.6 million in February and has $1.5 million in the bank. He also has debt of $1.5 million.

Don’t miss NPR’s detailed look at Gingrich super PAC financier Sheldon Adelson.

Appearing Tuesday on Fox News, Santorum super PAC mega-donor Foster Friess dismissed his own influence on the race, saying, “[H]e doesn’t need my money anymore because he’s got a lot of other people’s money.”

LENO VS. LINCOLN

Paul spent his Tuesday far away from the Land of Lincoln, attending a fundraising luncheon in Burbank, Calif., before sitting down with Jay Leno on the “Tonight Show.”

Leno asked the Texas congressman why he was in California on the day of the Illinois primary, to which Paul responded: “Well, I had a choice, campaigning over there today or being on the Jay Leno show. You know, I sort of flipped a coin and I got here.”

Paul told Leno he was staying in the race on the chance the Republican nominating fight ends with a brokered convention in Tampa this August.

“The big issue there is the committed delegates. See, there will be delegates committed maybe to Mitt Romney, but the second go-round they’re not committed to him,” Paul explained. “Then they can vote their conscience. Then, I believe we’ll get a lot of those delegates.”

DIVIDED BY D.C.

On Tuesday, the NewsHour launched a project exploring the two major parties’ views about the role of government at the state level in Virginia and Maryland. The election-year look at Govs. Bob McDonnell, R-Va., and Martin O’Malley, D-Md., will attempt to see which vision for governing is working better as Republicans and Democrats have the same conversation nationally.

Watch NewsHour reporter-producer Samina Engel’s piece here or below:

2012 LINE ITEMS

  • The New York Times’ John Harwood talked with Obama campaign manager Jim Messina.

  • Santorum’s campaign launched “Game On TV,” an “online newscast” about the campaign. It includes tunes from pro-Santorum musicians.

  • Someone made a mashup of Romney using Eminem’s 2000 single “Real Slim Shady.” Watch the video here.

  • CQ created an infographic detailing Romney’s support on K Street.

  • In a new web video, the Democratic National Committee is keeping up its drumbeat that Romney does not support women on health issues.

  • Judy Woodruff hosted a Google+ hangout exploring Americans Elect. Watch her conversation here.

  • Vice President Joe Biden will be back on the campaign trail Friday talking about the economy in Florida. The event comes on the heels of his speech last week at a UAW hall in Toledo, Ohio, where he defended the administration’s actions on the U.S. auto industry.

  • A new Public Policy Polling survey found the candidates’ spouses are more popular than their husbands. From the national poll:

Michelle Obama has a 54/34 favorability rating, compared to her husband’s 48/48 approval.

Ann Romney has a 31/22 favorability rating, compared to her husband’s 33/58.

Karen Santorum has a 31/27 favorability rating, compared to her husband’s 36/53.

Callista Gingrich is actually pretty unpopular, with an 18/44 favorability rating. But it’s at least better than her husband’s 28/61.

TOP TWEETS

OUTSIDE THE LINES

  • Also in Illinois Tuesday, Freshman Rep. Adam Kinzinger defeated longtime Rep. Don Manzullo in a Republican primary, a contest fueled by redistricting and one which forced House leadership to take sides.

  • House Republicans released their budget blueprint Tuesday, prompting Democrats to cry foul. The GOP also opted to extend the transportation bill rather than resolve an intra-party squabble. Judy talked with Norman Ornstein about the congressional gridlock. Watch our segment here.

  • Roll Call’s Shira Toeplitz scoops that the National Republican Congressional Committee selected Joanna Burgos to lead the independent expenditure arm this cycle, the first woman and the first Hispanic to hold the post.

  • “Many senior House Democrats have not paid what they owe their party as part of its effort to win back control of the lower chamber,” records obtained by The Hill suggest.

  • Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., will be honored on the Senate floor Wednesday for becoming the longest serving female member of Congress, writes NewsHour coordinating producer Linda Scott.

  • Gwen Ifill talked with Marcia Coyle about the arguments in the Supreme Court regarding teens sentenced to life without parole. Watch.

  • Watch NewsHour producer Merrill Schwerin’s piece about a pending measure in Colorado that would require welfare recipients to get drug testing.

  • A new Council on Foreign Relations report spelled out the need for more science, history and foreign languages in U.S. schools and linked education to national security interests. Jeffrey Brown talked about the report with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein.

  • Roll Call’s Emma Dumain notes that Congress is fighting over a memorial to former President Dwight Eisenhower.

  • A new survey from the left-leaning Public Policy Polling in Massachusetts finds Democratic hopeful Elizabeth Warren five points ahead of Republican Sen. Scott Brown.

ON THE TRAIL

All events are listed in Eastern Time.

  • President Obama talks up renewable energy in Boulder City, Nev., at 4:20 p.m. and delivers remarks on expanding oil and gas production in Maljamar, N.M., at 8:15 p.m.

  • Newt Gingrich campaigns in Louisiana with events in Pineville at 10 a.m., Lake Charles at 2 p.m. and Lafeyette at 5 p.m.

  • Rick Santorum campaigns in Louisiana with events in Harvey at 11 a.m., Mandeville at 1:30 p.m. and Alexandria at 8 p.m.

  • Mitt Romney holds a town hall in Arbutus, Md., at 4 p.m.

  • Ron Paul has no public campaign events scheduled.

All future events can be found on our Political Calendar:


For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

Follow the politics team on Twitter: @cbellantoni, @burlij, @elizsummers and @suddinengel.