Mitt Romney was projected the winner of the Illinois primary on Tuesday night by Fox News.
The former Massachusetts governor went into the contest running ahead of rival contenders Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul, according to the latest polls.
Illinois has 69 delegates, 54 of which were up for grabs in the primary.
The AP reports that the economy was the top issue in the minds of Illinois voters as they cast ballots in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, according to exit polls. HuffPost's Jason Linkins reports:
One of the more eye-popping catches from tonight's Illinois exit polls involves how Illinois voters registered support for the candidate they chose. According to the polls, 48 percent of Illinois voters "strongly favored" the candidate they chose. But an impressively high amount -- 39 percent -- told pollsters that they had "reservations" about the candidate they ultimately selected.
Of the 39 percent who expressed reservations, 47 percent voted for Mitt Romney, and 40 percent voted for Rick Santorum.
The Republican race for the White House will now turn to Louisiana ahead of the state's primary, which will take place this Saturday.
From delegates to endorsements, click here for a rundown on who's running ahead in the race.
Below, a live blog of the latest developments to unfold in Illinois.
A Democratic state lawmaker from Chicago charged last week with accepting a bribe overwhelmingly won his party's primary on Tuesday, reinforcing the reputation of the nation's third-largest city for turning a blind eye to corruption.
Derrick Smith, appointed a year ago to fill a vacancy in the Illinois House of Representatives, was leading with 76 percent of the vote with more than 80 percent of the ballots counted, according to the Chicago Board of Elections.
Read the whole story here.
Mitt Romney has been projected the winner of the popular vote in the Illinois primary, but he appears posed to win more than a proportionate share of the 54 delegates up for grabs in the state's 18 congressional districts. Romney appears on track to win about 40 delegates, give or take a few, and Santorum looks likely to win about a dozen.
Illinois is somewhat unique among Republican primary states, in that voters directly choose the delegates. In each district, Republicans vote twice: once for their choice for president (Romney, Santorum, Gingrich or Paul) and once for two to four delegate candidates in each district. Each delegate's name also includes the candidate they are pledged to support, so most voters can figure out which delegates to vote for.
Although votes are still being counted, the Associated Press has projected Romney the winner of 19 delegates, mostly in congressional districts in Chicago's Cook County or the mostly suburban "Collar Counties" that surround it in northeast Illinois. Currently, Romney is also leading in all of those districts and will likely sweep their 39 delegates. Romney will also likely win all of the delegates in District 13, where Santorum's delegates did not qualify for the ballot.
Currently, only 12 of Rick Santorum's delegates are leading. Those include all of the delegates in Districts 12, 15 and 17. Santorum is currently splitting delegates in two districts, 16 and 18, where the vote is very close and much vote remains to be counted.
Those last two districts may be a story of the value of organization and establishment support in presidential nominations. In District 16, two of Santorum's delegates are leading, but the biggest vote-getter overall so far is a Romney delegate, State Treasurer Dan Rutherford. Rutherford was also one of only three Romney delegates elected in Illinois in 2008, when John McCain carried Illinois by a large margin.
Santorum and Romney are also currently splitting the four delegates in District 18, although the margins are very close and might change. Nevertheless, the two Romney delegates currently leading, Jil Tracy and Rich Brauer, are both Republican state legislators.
-- Mark Blumenthal & Anna Staver
|@ RickSantorum : Thank you to our supporters in Illinois. We’re taking this fight for freedom next to Louisiana. http://t.co/60SFR9Ds|
Patch captured this photo of Democrat Leslie Coolidge delivering her "pre-victory" speech in the 6th Congressional District. Coolidge is leading in the race to oppose Rep. Peter Roskam (R) in November.
A top Mitt Romney spokesman stopped just short on Tuesday of calling for the other candidates to drop out of the race, pointedly remarking that his candidate had stepped aside to the eventual Republican nominee by this time in 2008.
"I can tell you what Mitt did four years ago when he found himself in a similar situation running against John McCain," Eric Fehrnstrom told CNN's Piers Morgan after Romney's win. "Mitt Romney made the decision, and it was a difficult one, to step aside. And he stepped aside because he thought it was good for the country ... and he wanted to give John McCain time to rally the party."
Fehrnstrom said it is a "very personal decision" to end a campaign, and one he can't make for the other candidates. But he added that "the reality is going to set in that Mitt is the all but certain nominee." It's an argument Romney supporters make often: they say he will win in the end, and extending the primary process limits opportunities for voters to coalesce behind one candidate.
Fehrnstrom acknowledged that Romney does not currently have the delegates needed to clinch the nomination. But he pointed out that as of Super Tuesday 2008, McCain didn't either, and nevertheless drove the others out of the race.
Of course, Romney still faces a major challenge from Rick Santorum, despite leading him in delegates, and there is no indication that he, or the other two candidates, plan to quit soon.
Fehrnstrom said the "gratifying" Illinois win was a step toward the nomination. "It's another sign that the Republican party is uniting behind" Romney," he said.
-- Elise Foley
|@ mollyesque : Interestingly, after Ann Romney's big push for women's votes, Santorum did slightly better among female than male voters in IL|
U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) jumped out to an early lead over his 2nd Congressional District primary challenger Debbie Halvorson and never looked back Tuesday evening.
The Associated Press called the race for Jackson.
Halvorson conceded the race to Jackson just before 9 p.m. CDT, the Chicago Tribune reports.
Read the whole story here.
|@ chucktodd : Cook County alone may account for Romney's entire raw vote margin over Santorum statewide|
Newt Gingrich, appearing on Fox News following a disappointing loss in the Illinois primary, explained why he was staying in the race despite no clear options for winning the nomination. And in doing so, he went squarely after Rick Santorum for the 2006 Senate re-election campaign that Santorum lost by a historic margin in Pennsylvania.
Senator Santorum didn't have a particularly good day. This is the third time now he has tried out an industrial Midwestern union state, and not succeeded. And I think conservatives have to think through what is the right strategy if they hope to stop Romney. We are faced, I think, with a very serious challenge in terms of who can beat Barack Obama. That, in the end, is what this is all about: Who can beat Barack Obama? And I think that it's very difficult to imagine that the governor who used Teddy Kennedy as his adviser, who designed Romneycare as the forerunner to Obamacare, is going to do very well. And frankly, Senator Santorum, who I like personally, I think has a hard time explaining why the guy who set the all-time record for losing Pennsylvania, somebody who took a balanced budget which I left behind and as part of the leadership ran up a trillion dollars, seven hundred billion dollars in deficits and was part of the largest defeat since Watergate, in 2006, as part of the leadership [can beat Obama].
In the lead-up to the vote in Illinois, Romney also went after Santorum for his 18-point defeat in that Senate race. And while the former senator has insisted that he isn't chiefly responsible for that campaign failure (it was a terrible year across the board for Republicans with President George W. Bush and the Iraq war dragging the party down), the attacks seem likely to escalate as the Pennsylvania primary edges closer.
-- Sam Stein
|@ reidepstein : No results yet from Rock Island County (Moline), but every other county Romney visited in Illinois he's winning.|
Wheaton Patch's Charlotte Eriksen captured this video of Mitt Romney talking to teenagers on Tuesday afternoon in the Chicago suburb of Wheaton.
Patch in Illinois reports that Iraq War vet Tammy Duckworth is poised to win the Democratic nomination for Congress in the 8th District to oppose Rep. Joe Walsh (R). Here is a picture from Duckworth's victory party.
|@ AlexNBCNews : But Newt continues to reiterate that he is staying in the race #decision2012|
|@ samsteinhp : Gingrich is going after santorum for 06 loss and for being part of the class that "suffered the largest defeat since watergate"|
|@ michaelpfalcone : Santorum ends his speech talking about the "boatload" of delegates he intends to pick up in Pennsylvania (Apr. 24)|
Rick Santorum spoke with voters in his home state of Pennsylvania after losing the Illinois primary to rival Mitt Romney.
Santorum spoke twice Tuesday night -- one to a crowd at his rally in Gettysburg and one to an overflow crowd outside. The former Pennsylvania senator noted that he had called Romney and congratulated him on his win before addressing either crowd.
Despite his loss, Santorum said he was proud of his accomplishments in Illinois.
"We won the areas that conservatives and Republicans populate, we're very happy about that," Santorum said, noting his campaign was pleased about the delegates he'd receive from the Land of Lincoln.
"The foundational issue in this race, the one that is in fact the cause of the other maladies that we are feeling... all boils down to one word," Santorum said. "That is the word 'freedom.'"
"I was pleased to hear before I came out that Governor Romney is now adopting that theme," Santorum said, commenting on Romney's primary night speech just minutes earlier.
Santorum said this election is "not about who's the best person to manage Washington, or manage the economy."
"You need someone who's got a strong and clear record that can appeal to voters all across this country," Santorum said. "Someone who has a long track record of deep convictions, someone who's going to stand and fight."
Santorum took a hit at politicians who use teleprompters -- an argument often directed toward Obama, and one that tonight could also be directed at Mitt Romney, who stumbled over several parts of his speech before relying on a teleprompter.
The GOP hopeful said "we're feeling very, very good about winning Louisiana on Saturday," noting that he'll head there tomorrow.
-- Paige Lavender
|@ jimacostacnn : Santorum on Saturday's Louisiana primary: "five days to a big win and a big delegate surge."|
|@ MittRomney : Thank you, IL! We've taken one more step toward restoring the promise of America, and tomorrow we wake up & start again.|
HuffPost's Howard Fineman reports:
Now that Illinois has come and gone, and Mitt Romney has won, the time has come not to bury him but to praise him.
Stripped of sentiment, accepting the pitiless morality of the American win-at-all-costs game, Willard "Mitt" Romney deserves to be acknowledged for what he is: the best in the brutal presidential election business as it now is practiced.
"He's got more votes, more delegates, more states and more money than anyone else," said a friend of his who insisted on anonymity to speak frankly about Romney's campaign. "Especially considering what he has had to overcome -- and I mean overcome, because he is an Ivy League, Northeastern, Mormon in a populist, Southern, evangelical party -- there is nothing else you can say except that he's the best candidate. That's what the numbers show."
Click here to read more.
|@ jimacostacnn : Santorum on Romney and Gingrich on global warming: "When the climate changed, they changed."|
|@ KellyO : Santorum rails against manmade climate change "I know this isn't climate science its political science"|
|@ KellyO : .@RickSantorum zings Obama and Romney over reading from teleprompter saying "I don't happen to have one here tonight"|
|@ newtgingrich : Low turnout tonight. A nominee that depresses turnout won't beat @BarackObama. Still time for a conservative. Join us: http://t.co/kCMl2k9C|
Mitt Romney's campaign sent an email to supporters following his primary victory in Illinois:
Another big night and win for our campaign -- thank you! Tonight, we have taken one more step toward restoring the promise of America. And tomorrow we wake up and start again. This November, we face a defining decision. Our economic freedom will be on the ballot, and I intend to offer the American people a clear choice.
Tonight's win means we are that much closer to securing the nomination, uniting our party, and taking on President Obama. We are almost there.
|@ DavidMDrucker : @RIckSantorum: This election is not about best person to manage the economy/Washington - We don't need a manager.|
|@ KellyO : .@RickSantorum says "freedom" is focus of his run then jabs "I'm happy to see Gov Romney is now adopting that theme in his speech tonight"|
|@ mollyesque : Note to Rick Santorum: The Gettysburg Address was only 270 words long.|
|@ jamiedupree : Rick Santorum now speaking in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania; says this election is most important since 1860|
|@ DavidMDrucker : "We won the area that Republicans and conservatives populate." @RIckSantorum on IL|
|@ JFKucinich : Santorum is apparently giving a speech to those waiting outside in the hall to get into the ballroom to hear him speak|
Mitt Romney spoke with supporters shortly after being projected the winner of the Illinois GOP primary. Romney congratulated his GOP rivals on a hard-fought race before launching into an attack on Obama.
"We've had enough," Romney said. "We deserve a president who believes in us, and I believe in the American people."
Romney said he considered the differences between himself and Obama while "giving a speech at the university of Chicago, not very far from here, not very from where Professor Barack Obama taught law."
"For 25 years I lived and breathed business and jobs," Romney said. "I had successes and failures, but each step of the way I learned more and more about what it is that makes our American system so powerful... You can't learn that teaching constitutional law at the University of Chicago."
"The simple truth is that this president doesn't understand the genius of America's economy," Romney said, noting that Obama's "problem is, he’s still Barack Obama."
"You know that the real cost of these misguided policies, these attacks on American freedom... are the ideas that are not pursued and the dreams that aren't realized and therefore all the little businesses that dont get started and.. the tens of thousands of workers that don't get hired," Romney said. "We once built an interstate highway system, and the Hoover Dam. Now we can't even build a pipeline."
"When we replace a law professor with a conservative businessman as president, that's going to end," Romney said. "It is not the government that creates our prosperity."
After noting that today's primary was important, Romney shifted his focus to the general election, saying "in November, our economic freedom will be on the ballot."
"I'm offering a choice, and a new beginning," Romney said. "I'm running for president because I have the experience and vision to get us out of this mess."
-- Paige Lavender
|@ KellyO : Romney says he sees an America "where the pursuit of success will unite us not divide us"|
|@ maryannahern : Tougher jabs at "Professor" Obama by Romney, says he's a "dream killer" #ILPrimary|
|@ ethanklapper : Romney: In November, our economic freedom will be on the ballot.|
|@ mckaycoppins : This is a well-written speech, lots of new lines, lots of effective hits on Obama.|
|@ jaketapper : Romney casts the choice this way: replacing "a law professor with a conservative businessman."|
|@ SarahB_CBSNJ : Santorum called Romney tonight, they spoke before Romney's speech|
|@ ZekeJMiller : Teleprompters located further away from Romney than usual. May be a factor in the flubbed lines.|
|@ TheFix : Romney riff on his experience in creating jobs. This is what the general election will sound like for him.|
|@ KellyO : Gingrich issues written statement that does not congratulate Romney and claims he will "relentlessly" take fight to Tampa.|
Newt Gingrich attempted to downplay his loss in Illinois to Mitt Romney, blaming it on the former Massachusetts governor's spending.
"To defeat Barack Obama, Republicans can’t nominate a candidate who relies on outspending his opponents 7 to 1," Gingrich said in a statement. "Instead, we need a nominee who offers powerful solutions that hold the president accountable for his failures."
With 34 precincts reporting at 9:15 p.m., Gingrich was in fourth place, far behind Rick Santorum and a couple of percentage points behind Ron Paul.
The full statement:
To defeat Barack Obama, Republicans can’t nominate a candidate who relies on outspending his opponents 7 to 1. Instead, we need a nominee who offers powerful solutions that hold the president accountable for his failures. Over the past few weeks, my $2.50 gas plan has shown how America could have cheaper gas, more jobs and greater national security while putting the White House on the defense over their anti-American energy policies. This is the type of leadership I can offer as the nominee, and this campaign will spend between now and when the delegates vote in Tampa relentlessly taking the fight to President Obama to make this case.
-- Elise Foley
|@ jamiedupree : BIG CHEERS: Romney says of President Obama, "We've had enough"|
|@ DavidMDrucker : "I'd like to congratulate my fellow candidates on a hard-fought race." @MittRomney|
|@ PhilipRucker : Ann Romney says "I have to thank our friends in Puerto Rico." Subtle way to underscore back-to-back big wins.|
|@ jimacostacnn : Four minutes and seven years ago.. so there's a delay at Santorum HQ.|
Earlier on HuffPost: