Illinois March 20 primary: More significant now

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WASHINGTON — Because the Super Tuesday votes in the GOP presidential primary did not knock out anyone — yet — or mint a potential nominee — the March 20 Illinois primary takes on a larger significance.

At stake are 54 Illinois delegates, a big prize.

Kansas has a caucus on Saturday; next Tuesday are primaries in Alabama and Mississippi and a caucus in Hawaii; on March 17, Missouri has a caucus.

Rick Santorum is a 1976 graduate of Mundelein’s Carmel High School; neither Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich nor Ron Paul has any close Illinois ties.

The results from 10 Super Tuesday states gave Romney, Santorum and Gingrich all something to brag about. However, an overall lagging Super Tuesday performance means the path is closing for Gingrich to get the 1,144 delegates needed for the nomination — and it’s shut for Paul.

Jon Zahm, Santorum’s Illinois state director, told me Tuesday night that he was “quite sure” Santorum would be in Illinois at least three times between March 14 and March 20. Santorum is running at a disadvantage in Illinois — his campaign did not file delegate slates in four of the 18 Illinois congressional districts, leaving Santorum covered for only 44 of 54 delegate contests.

To deal with this deficit, Zahm said they were “doubling up” in their efforts in the 14 districts where Santorum is running full slates.

Romney already has some Illinois dates nailed down. His campaign here is chaired by state treasurer Dan Rutherford — and is loaded with endorsements from the Illinois Republican establishment — and helped by major donors from the state on his national finance committee.

Romney headlines major donor fund-raisers in Chicago and suburban Wheaton on March 20 and one in Peoria on March 19.

Romney is likely to make his Illinois primary night election headquarters in the western suburbs.

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