Huffpost Politics

Mitt Romney Helped Rick Santorum Stay On Ballot In Illinois

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Now that Tuesday's primary in Illinois is shaping up to be a crucial state for Mitt Romney to win, his campaign may be regretting allowing Rick Santorum to be eligible for 30 delegates.

Santorum failed to gather enough signatures for 10 of Illinois' 18 congressional districts, Romney's campaign told Buzzfeed. The former Pennsylvania senator also failed to be eligible for a full slate of delegates in Ohio, Washington, D.C., and Virginia.

But unlike in Ohio, Romney allowed Santorum to stay on the ballot, and Illinois Treasurer and Romney state chairman Dan Rutherford withdrew challenges in those districts in January.

Illinois' March 20 primary will determine who gets 54 delegates, and another 15 will be chosen at the state's GOP convention in June, according to the Daily Herald. That means there was no way for Santorum to come out of Tuesday with a delegate majority until Romney's campaign allowed him on the ballot.

Rutherford told the Daily Herald that back in January, Romney's campaign was OK with the decision.

But now that choice doesn't sit well with some of Romney's allies who think allowing Santorum onto the ballot in these districts transformed a previously easy win into a competitive race.

"When there is a challenge filed because a campaign doesn't file the required number of signatures, it’s pretty much a no-brainer," a Romney supporter in Illinois told Buzzfeed. "The conservative folks started screaming bloody murder, and Rutherford caved."

"This isn't about Romney, it’s about Rutherford," he said.

Rutherford is rumored to be eyeing a run for governor in 2014, and Romney's allies speculated that the treasurer's change of heart was due in part to a desire to please Santorum supporters whom he hopes to lean on during his 2014 campaign.

"Either man up or get out of this game," said another top Illinois Republican. "If Santorum picks up delegates downstate then shame on them."