In Illinois Republican Primary, Rick Santorum Has a Big Problem

Illinois has been a stalwart for GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney all along. But there is a large and growing contingent of non-Romney voters in the Land of Lincoln. Newt Gingrich showed some initial strength in Illinois, yet Rick Santorum has really come in for a late sweep. But Santorum has a major problem.

For an Illinois voter that considers himself an ABR (“anybody but Romney”), it is likely that Santorum has increasingly grown on him. Sanoturm’s rallies drew quite a bit more participants than Gingrich’s late last week, for instance. But even if Santorum wins the popular vote he still cannot get all the delegates he'd like.

As it happens, Illinois primary voters don't just have a say in the beauty contest that is the popular vote. Voters there also directly elect the delegates to the conventions.

That is Santorum's problem. The former Pennsylvania senator was never able to get enough signatures on his nominating petitions in order to get delegates slated to appear on the ballot in every Illinois district. That means in some districts in the state voters will have the opportunity to vote for Santorum, but will have no Santorum delegates to vote for. It will be a hollow vote in such cases.

Early in this process Santorum seemed like he was going to be the perennial 3% candidate, never being able to rise to the level of a real contender. Early in the race Santorum had little money to organize in Illinois and few volunteers to build upon. His team was not able to circulate petitions in enough volume to get signatures for his delegates and so he lacks delegates in four districts.

So, instead of the requisite 54 delegates, Santorum has only 44 delegates slated statewide. He will have no delegates in the 4th District (Chicago area), the 5th District (DuPage and Chicago), the 7th District (Chicago again) and the 13th District (Springfield area).

Santorum has bitterly complained about the Illinois system, of course. Just last week, for instance, he called it "Byzantine." Yet the system is the system whether he likes it or not.

Interestingly, by law Santorum could have been kept off the Illinois ballot entirely. But team Romney, headed by Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford, decided to drop challenges to Santorum's petitions and allow him to stay on the ballot. Two things went into that decision. First, Santorum was not thought to be a threat back when the petition process was being handled last year and, secondly, Rutherford wants to run for governor and he didn't want to upset even a small block of future GOP voters. Rutherford made a political calculation that was more for his own benefit than for his candidate's, for sure.

So, what do non-Romney voters in Illinois do? If they want to stop Romney from winning (or at least running away with it) the only answer is to vote for both Gingrich and Santorum. Non-Romney voters in Illinois will have to vote for Santorum at the top of the ballot and then continue down ballot and pick Gingrich’s delegates. They’ll essentially be voting for both candidates. Oddly enough it can be done even without the famous Chicago corruption aiding you. It seems somewhat counterintuitive, of course, but it is reality nonetheless. The amusing part of voting for both Newt and Santorum is that it is perfectly legitimate.

Ah, Illinois.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore