Illinois Primary: Romney Racks Up Convincing Victory Over Santorum Amid Thin Turnout 

A small slice of disenchanted Republican voters went decisively for former Massachusetts governor.

CNN projects that Mitt Romney will win tonight's Illinois primary decisively, handing an important defeat to the once insurgent former Senator Rick Santorum in a major industrialized state.

With about 7 percent of the votes cast, or about 150,000 ballots, Romney had scored 55 percent to 27 percent for Santorum.

More than just another station on the campaign trail, the Illinois primary offers the symbolic prize of a Republican win in the home state of President Barack Obama. The state itself usually votes Democratic in general elections.

Turnout statewide appeared to be low and was “extremely low” in Chicago itself, according to The Chicago Sun-Times.

But the results were particularly hard for Santorum. Unlike recent contests in southern states, the Illinois contest primarily pitted Romney against Santorum with both Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul barely registering. Santorum's inability to defeat Romney in a head-to-head contest could argue against his viability as a candidate.

Speaking to supporters in Schaumberg, Illinois, Romney addressed none of his rivals by name and appeared to be declaring the start of the general election campaign, focusing his criticism solely on the president, who he said was an enemy of "economic freedom."

"It's time to say these words…this word: enough," he said in a remarks carried live by CNN. "We know our future is brighter than these troubled times. We need a president who still believes in us and I believe in the American people."

"You can't learn that teaching Constitutional law at the University of Chicago. You can't even learn that as a community organizer. The simple truth is that this president doesn't understand the genius of the American economy," Romney continued. "The American economy is fueled by freedom.... It's the only principle that has been able to sustain prosperity."

According to Politico, Romney has outspent Santorum by a ratio of seven to one in campaign advertising, with the Romney camp and the pro-Romney Super PAC spending a total of $3.7 million. (But this is relatively little, given the spending in other states and the size of Illinois population, according to Nate Silver of The New York Times.)

Lack of enthusiasm has been long been apparent. Four in ten voters didn’t really like the candidate they chose, according to CBS News.

According to The New York Times, Romney lost the state four years ago to John McCain, who got 47.5 percent of the vote to Romney’s 28.6 percent. The state’s 54 unbound delegates will be elected directly by Congressional District, the newspaper said.

Santorum was not eligible for 10 of the state’s delegates.

The New York Times estimated before tonight’s results that Romney had 522 pledged delegates to Santorum’s 253. Those numbers mean tonight’s results will bring Romney close to half the 1,144 delegates needed to clinch the Republican nomination for the presidency.

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