U.S. Republican Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney was projected Tuesday night to win his party's Illinois primary by major U.S. broadcasters, as he hunts for enough delegates to become the party's nomination.
Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney shakes hands with a little girl after a campaign in Gilbert, South Carolina, Jan. 20, 2012. [Xinhua file photo]
With over 65 percent of votes counted Tuesday night, Romney has garnered about 47.3 percent of the support, way ahead of his main rival Rick Santorum who got 35 percent. Texas Congressman Ron Paul won about 9 percent, and former House speaker Newt Gingrich took 8 percent.
Major broadcasters including Fox News and CNN projected a big win for Romney based on the big advantage he held over Santorum in exit polls and early polling results.
In remarks to supporters in Schaumburg, Illinois, Romney thanked voters in the state, and focused his speech on President Barack Obama, barely mentioning his opponents. He said the United States has had "enough" of Obama's policies, and said he would restore American economy to its rightful place if elected president.
"Tonight was a primary, but November is the general election, and we are going to face a defining choice as a people," said Romney. His campaign and the super PAC (political action committee) supporting him outspent his rivals 7 to 1 in Illinois for this big win.
The win gives Romney chance to gain significantly from the delegate-rich state. Except for winning the popular vote, he could get more delegates than the polling numbers indicated, as Santorum was ineligible to win some of the delegates at stake, after failing to meet deadlines to field a full slate of delegates in four of the state's congressional districts.
It also shifted momentum back to the Romney camp. Romney lost the races in Alabama and Mississippi in the so called "Southern Super Tuesday" last week, but has since won in Puerto Rico, continuing his steady delegate lead.
According to CNN count, Romney now has some 540 delegates, Santorum has 239, Gingrich and Paul held 137 and 69 respectively. A candidate needs 1144 delegates to win the Republican nomination.
A Romney win puts more pressure on Santorum, who is gearing up for a fight Saturday in Louisiana. In remarks delivered in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Santorum urged supporters to "saddle up," and fight on.