Mitt Romney won the Illinois primary with a roughly 25% turnout, bringing his delegate count to 522 (and this number will likely rise as more details about delegate affiliations come to light).
Romney is projected to garner more than 50% of the vote nearly double Santorum's 27.5% of the vote. This is a huge improvement for Romney, who only received about 28% of the vote in his match up against John McCain in 2008.
Since Gingrich and Paul were mainly absent, the Illinois primary was as close to a head to head confrontation between Santorum and Romney so far. Here are three takeaways from the exit polls.
1. Romney did better with young people. In Michigan and Ohio, he struggled with voters aged 18-44 and only won the rich and the old. This time though he did better with those age groups, winning the 30-44 age group for the first time in a long time. Our live blog revealed several younger people who were enthusiastic about Romney. Apparently, the moderation of Illinois extends to its youngest Republicans.
2. Romney is still vulnerable on the economy. In Michigan, Romney barely garnered more votes from those who were only employed part-time, a group that is probably the most interested in his economic message. In Ohio, Romney lost this group to Santorum. This time around, in Illinois, voters who were employed part-time barely sided with Romney, by a margin of 41% to 40%.
3. Republicans don't care about electability as much as you think. In Michigan and in Ohio, only 70% of voters who thought Romney had the best chance of beating Obama actually voted for him. This means that 30% acknowledged that Romney would be the best way to end Obama's reign, but went on to vote for Santorum anyway. This trend continued in Illinois, making me think that the GOP voters aren't as concerned with preventing a two-term Obama presidency as they say. This primary is about the future of the party.
4. It is Obama-country anyway. Obama won Illinois, his home state, in 2008 but the nearly unprecedented margin of 2:1. It's likely he would do the same to Romney; especially given that turnout was low this time around.
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