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Romney wins, Santorum loses in Illinois primary

The former Massachusetts governor defeated the former Pennsylvania senator in a blowout evening.

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In all, Romney and Restore Our Future outspent Santorum and a super PAC that backs him by $3.5 million to $500,000, an advantage of 7-1.

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Romney's victory was worth at least 13 delegates.

That gave him 535 in the overall count maintained by The Associated Press, out of 1,144 needed to win the nomination. Santorum has 253 delegates, Gingrich 135 and Paul 50.

In the long and grinding campaign, Santorum looked to rebound in next Saturday's primary in Louisiana, particularly given Romney's demonstrated difficulties winning in contests across the Deep South.

A 10-day break follows before Washington, D.C., Maryland and Wisconsin hold primaries on April 3.

Santorum is not on the ballot in the nation's capital.

Private polling shows Romney with an advantage in Maryland, and Restore Our Future launched a television ad campaign in the state during the day at a cost of more than $450,000.

Wisconsin shapes up as the next big test between Romney and Santorum, an industrial state next door to Illinois, but one where Republican politics have been roiled recently by a controversy involving a recall battle against the governor and some GOP state senators who supported legislation that was bitterly opposed by labor unions.

Already, Restore Our future has put down more than $2 million in television advertising across Wisconsin. Santorum has spent about $50,000 to answer.

Neither Newt Gingrich nor Ron Paul campaigned extensively in Illinois.

Gingrich has faded into near-irrelevance in the race, but he was defiant in a statement issued after Romney sealed his victory.

"To defeat Barack Obama, Republicans can't nominate a candidate who relies on outspending his opponents 7-1. Instead, we need a nominee who offers powerful solutions that hold the president accountable for his failures," it said.

Gingrich said his campaign will spend the time leading to the party convention "relentlessly taking the fight to President Obama."

Illinois fell into Romney's column far more easily than Michigan or Ohio had.

The night's vote count was plagued by ballot difficulties. Rupert Borgsmiller, executive director, of the Illinois State Board of Elections, said in late afternoon that 25 counties and the city of Aurora were affected by the ballot problem. He didn't know how many ballots were affected but said "clearly you can say more than hundreds."

Romney and Santorum campaigned energetically across the state, and not always in respectful tones.

"Senator Santorum has the same economic lightweight background the president has," Romney said at one point. "We're not going to replace an economic lightweight with another economic lightweight."

Santorum had a tart reply. "If Mitt Romney's an economic heavyweight, we're in trouble."

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