As a fervent supporter of the former Governor of Massachusetts, never in my life have I been more thrilled to have been proven wrong. Last night, Mitt Romney won 47% of the vote in the Illinois Republican primary. He beat Rick Santorum by a whopping 12 percent. It was such a huge victory that the race had been called only 30 minutes after the polls closed. Mr. Santorum did manage to get 35% of the vote, but as everyone (including myself) has already noted, he failed to qualify for four congressional districts and will only be adding 10 delegates to his tally. Mr. Romney, on the other hand, earned 43 delegates last night. So, why was my prediction of Mr. Romney only winning by single digits wrong?
I think it’s pretty easy to tell if you look as the results of Cook and Lake County. While I was watching CNN last night, I noticed something distinctly different between this primary and previous ones. The reason news networks were unable to make an early projection in Michigan and Ohio was because the biggest counties took the longest amount of time to count their votes. Last night, Cook County (where Chicago resides) and Lake County started counting their votes very early, so by the time everyone saw how wide the margin was for Mr. Romney, they concluded that there was no way Mr. Santorum would be able to catch up. They knew Mr. Santorum would win the Southern and Western parts of the state, but since those areas are more rural and therefore less populated, they were able to make a projection much earlier in the night than in Ohio or Michigan.
Now, Mr. Santorum will probably get a win on Saturday in Louisiana, so this week won’t be all bad news for him. However, as far as New Gingrich is concerned, the fact that he came in dead last yesterday really speaks volumes to the fact that his campaign is essentially over. When you can’t even get more votes than Ron Paul in a blue state like Illinois, that is nothing short of a colossal failure. Obviously, Mr. Gingrich has lost a majority of his supporters to Mr. Santorum since he is the man who very conservative voters have decided to coalesce around in what appears to be an ill-fated attempt to deny Mr. Romney the nomination. But regardless of the fact that his campaign is perilously low on cash and his support has been waning for the past two months, he still could not beat a man who insists that there is no danger in Iran possessing a nuclear weapon. As Gloria Borger and David Gergen stated last night, even if he did drop out and endorse Mr. Santorum, neither of them could catch up to Mr. Romney’s lead at this point. At this point, the only benefit he gains from staying in the race is that people will continue to talk about him, which I’m sure a man of his grandiosity would enjoy. Mike Huckabee was in a very similar situation in 2008, so much so that he was mocked on “Saturday Night Live” for refusing to acknowledge that his time had past.
There is no way that Mr. Santorum will drop out of the race anytime before the end of the month. But as I stated in my last post, if he thinks March has been relatively unfavorable to him, he should wait and see what April has in store for him. He will receive a shellacking that will be even worse than when he lost his senate seat in 2008 by 16 points. Even if he were to win his home state of Pennsylvania, Texas, Indiana, West Virginia and North Carolina, he still would not be able to catch up to Mr. Romney. There is one thing you can say about the results from last night: there was no talk from the media of how Mr. Romney had a “disappointing” night or that his win in Illinois was “not significant enough” of a win. Last night was conclusive evidence that Mr. Romney is the inevitable front-runner, and that a majority of Republicans all over the country believe he really is the best candidate to face President Barack Obama in November.