03/20/2012 02:32 pm ET Updated Mar 20, 2012

Illinois Primary: Delegates for Newt Gingrich Switching To Rick Santorum

A last-minute shift of support for Rick Santorum could help him make up lost ground in Illinois. Nine delegates that belonged to Newt Gingrich have shifted their allegiance to Santorum, according to Fox Chicago News.

It happened Monday night when Gingrich supporter Jim Runyon announced a change of heart. The vice chairman of the Crawford County Illinois Republican Party recruited many of the former speaker's Illinois delegates in six downstate districts.

Runyon said these delegates were pledged to Gingrich because he asked them to be. Now he's asking them to vote for Santorum if they make it to the Republican convention in Tampa this August. Runyon told Fox Chicago News that he's convinced nine Gingrich delegates in four congressional districts to abandon their promises to vote Gingrich.

Santorum's campaign failed to submit any delegates in Illinois'13th district, a region of Illinois known as downstate where Santorum is thought to have an advantage over Romney. If Runyon could convince Gingrich delegates in this district to switch, it would enable Santorum to potentially pick up three delegates that would otherwise have been lost to him.

However, since the ballots were printed before the delegates were released from their pledges, voters would need to know which delegates marked on the ballot as Gingrich supporters, actually back Santorum.

Al Salvi, the Illinois co-chair for the Santorum campaign, told Fox Chicago News that this development gives the campaign added momentum and that he thought Santorum could potentially win 12 of the 18 Illinois districts.

Santorum's campaign failed to submit any delegates in four of Illinois' 18 districts, according to Policymic. This cost the former Pennsylvania Senator 10 potential delegates -- meaning the maximum he can win is 44 out of the 54 delegates given out by these districts in Tuesday's primary.

The Illinois Republican Party will choose 12 additional delegates at a state convention later this spring, according to The Green Papers.

Romney also helped Santorum with delegates in Illinois in January when it looked like Santorum was going to be ineligible for nearly 30 delegates because the ones he did submit often failed to have the required number of supporting signatures. Romney's campaign decided not to object to these delegates, and it allowed them on the ballot.

The Romney campaign explained its decision in a statement:

"It would have been incumbent on us or another campaign for force him off the ballot. We decided against doing that. All of Senator Santorum's ballot access problems have been as a result of his own organizational failures."

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly listed Jim Runyon as a Newt Gingrich delegate. He is not. He worked to recruit potential delegates for Gingrich in Illinois and has since switched his support to Rick Santorum.
He is asking the delegates he recruited for Gingrich to vote for Santorum instead should they make it to the Republican presidential convention this August.