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Trump eases, Clinton squeezes to victory in Illinois

Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks to her supporters during her Primary Night Event at the Palm Beach County Convention Center on March 15, 2016 in West Palm Beach, Florida.(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

primary-election-resultsHillary Clinton won a nail-biter of a race in her home state of Illinois Tuesday night, after Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders rode a huge wave of momentum in the waning days of the campaign.

In the Republican primary, Donald Trump easily won Illinois — 39 percent of the vote with 93 percent of precincts reporting. But Texas Sen. Ted Cruz — 30.5 percent of the vote – may get some of the all-important delegates in the state.

Trump’s win in Illinois followed a big night of primary wins, also in Florida and North Carolina.

Clinton also took Ohio, Florida and North Carolina.

At a Florida victory rally, Clinton herself congratulated Sanders for the “vigorous campaign he’s waging.”

With 93 percent of Illinois precincts reporting, Clinton had 50.6 percent of the vote over Sanders’ 48.6 percent. In Chicago, where Clinton was born, the former secretary of state maintained an 8 percent lead throughout the night.

CNN and the Associated Press both declared Clinton the winner in Illinois at about 11:30 p.m.

On the Republican side, Cruz took the lead in central Illinois, with Trump dominating in most other Illinois counties with a heavy Republican presence, including in Lake, DuPage, Kane and Will counties.

In Chicago, with 96 percent of precincts reporting, Trump took a 38.81 percent to 24 percent lead over Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Cruz was reporting 25.60 percent.

Illinois became an important battleground on Tuesday as both parties still must settle on a presidential nomination.

Both parties made major campaign pushes in Illinois in the final days of the election. Sanders hosted a late night rally in Chicago on Monday night; Clinton campaigned in Chicago Monday night; Cruz stopped by Glen Ellyn, Peoria, Decatur and Springfield on Monday. And Trump visited Bloomington for a rally on Sunday after a botched canceled rally at Chicago’s UIC Pavilion last week.

Momentum in Sanders’ campaign swept Chicago before the election as the Vermont senator edged closer to Clinton, who was born in Chicago and raised in Park Ridge. A loss in Illinois would be viewed as an embarrassment for Clinton.

The Sanders campaign hoped a Clinton link to Mayor Rahm Emanuel would catch the attention of Chicagoans unhappy with the mayor. Sanders pushed out Illinois campaign ads that were very critical of Emanuel. One ad featured Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, who lost to Emanuel in the mayoral election. And another ad criticized the Emanuel administration for not releasing the police dascham video showing a Chicago Police officer shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald to death.

McDonald’s death was also highlighted in Clinton campaign ads, where she spoke the names of high profile victims of police-involved shootings. Clinton’s campaign also released a radio ad featuring the mothers of Sandra Bland, Jordan Davis, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin and Dontre Hamilton.

That ad was designed to counter Sanders’ Emanuel-link by criticizing his votes on gun control issues.

For Democrats, 182 delegates are at stake from Illinois. Of that number, 102 delegates are decided by how each candidate does in its 18 congressional districts. A candidate must get at least 15 percent of the popular vote to get that delegate.

For the Republicans, 69 delegates are at stake from Illinois. Trump will get 15 delegates, while the remaining 54 are decided by voters with three from each of the state’s congressional districts.

Kasich, who kept his presidential quest alive because of his win in Ohio, had also aimed for a good showing in Illinois on the theory there were like-minded Republicans in another Midwest state.

Trump’s strong showing in Illinois came without the support of any member of the Illinois Republican political establishment. Trump’s voters in Illinois may have been energized in the wake of the dust-up over the cancelled UIC rally on Friday. In the closing days of the Illinois campaign, two anti-Trump super PACS poured several million dollars into Trump attack ads, but they came as Illinois voters were inundated with political spots.

A centerpiece of the Trump campaign has been immigration, and the Illinois exit poll found Trump won 69 percent of the vote of those who considered that a major issue.

In an Illinois exit poll, Trump won the votes of people with less than a high school education, some college and with college graduates, with Cruz prevailing among those with post-graduate degrees. When it come to ideology, Cruz won the very conservative vote, according to the exit poll, while Trump prevailed among those who described themselves as somewhat conservative or moderate.

Contributing: Lynn Sweet