Mitt Romney Secures Big Illinois Victory

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Mitt Romney is turning the weekend's quiet momentum into a freight train.

Romney looks to have widened his delegate lead against all Republican opponents Tuesday night with the former Massachusetts governor easily winning the primary in Illinois.

Mitt Romney

Romney led with 47% to Rick Santorum's 35%. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas had 9%, and Newt Gingrich trailed with 8%.

Romney won 20 delegates from Puerto Rico -- Rick Santorum spent precious time there to try and win the U.S. territory -- over the weekend as he campaigned across Illinois, determined to win a substantial number of the state's 69 delegates .

"One of the people who's running also for the Republican nomination today said that he doesn't care about the unemployment rate, that doesn't bother him," Romney said Monday in Peoria, Ill. "I want to get people back to work, I'm concerned about those that are out of work."

His win in Puerto Rico, combined with a likely better result in the Missouri caucuses than the Missouri non-binding primary, provided muted momentum to Romney's campaign after losses in last Tuesday's Alabama and Mississippi primaries.

A win in Illinois, which was largely in doubt until the past couple of days, would wrap up another massive Midwestern contest (including Michigan and Ohio) for the former governor who had originally struggled to beat Santorum in the region.

Santorum left for Puerto Rico instead of campaigning heavily in Illinois through the weekend and he failed to win a single delegate.

Even more bizarrely, the campaign spent an hour Tuesday attempting to clarify the "real" delegate count in the GOP race. It appeared unusual for a campaign to fiddle with delegate numbers as it significantly trailed on the day of a crucial primary contest.

Romney currently sports a sizable delegate lead against Santorum at 522-to-252, according to The Associated Press. Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul are at 136 and 50 delegates, respectively.

A peak at the Republican National Committee delegate count, which only allots bound delegates from previous contests, shows a much grimmer scenario for Santorum: Romney 339, Gingrich 107, Santorum 95 and Paul 22.

The RNC allocation shows that Santorum's campaign has greatly benefited in caucus states. Illinois is not a caucus state, but voters there will vote directly Tuesday on 54 of the 69 total national delegates in a "loophole" primary .

-- Written by Joe Deaux in New York.

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