Last night saw Republican presidential primary voters take to the polls in Illinois, the second biggest state to vote so far in terms of delegates.
Perhaps the media is tiring of finding new ways to spin the possibility of a brokered convention, or perhaps Romney just did pretty much what polls suggested he would in the state, but there’s a definite sense of, dare I say it, inevitability in the coverage today following the former Massachusetts governor’s healthy win. Romney picked up 47 percent of the vote, compared with 35 percent for Rick Santorum. Ron Paul came in a distant third, with 9 percent of the vote.
Senior Romney advisor Robert O’Brien gave me his take late last night on the race and what it means. “Gov. Romney won a convincing victory tonight in Illinois, capturing voters across the ideological spectrum who believe he best understands Americans’ problems. As he’s done in previous contests, he also won among voters who are most concerned about economic issues and who believe he has the right experience to beat Obama in the fall,” he told me.
“The title of Gov. Romney’s recent book, No Apologies: The Case for American Greatness, sums up the theme he will press in the fall on issues both domestic and foreign. It’s a winning message,” he added.
Certainly Romney got a further welcome boost with the news today that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was endorsing him.
“I am endorsing Mitt Romney for our Party’s nomination,” Bush said. “We face huge challenges, and we need a leader who understands the economy, recognizes more government regulation is not the answer, believes in entrepreneurial capitalism and works to ensure that all Americans have the opportunity to succeed.”
Writing for Time, Mark Halperin pretty much summed up the mood of the coverage today:
“Mitt Romney’s Illinois win could be the beginning of the end of the Republican nomination fight. In order to get there, he faces two challenges: He’ll have to convince on-the-sidelines Republicans to endorse his candidacy, contribute to his campaign, and muscle Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich out of the race. And he’ll also have to persuade the media to reflect the reality that Romney is the only candidate who can win a majority of the delegates needed for the nomination.”
The next primary is on Saturday, when voters in Louisiana will have their say. I’m in New Orleans as I write this, so will have more ahead of the result.