Illinois Victory Puts Mitt Romney in the Driver's Seat

From the beginning Romney has had two things going for him that the other candidates in the race did not: money and organization.

By + More

Republican voters in President Barack Obama's home state said Tuesday that they wanted former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney to be the party's standard-bearer in November.

He took 46.7 percent of the vote in the four-way race, besting former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. It was a convincing win, but in a state that the GOP does not at the moment expect it will carry for president in 2012. Nevertheless it has many people talking once again about the "inevitability" of a Romney nomination.

[See pictures of the 2012 GOP candidates.]

From the beginning Romney has had two things going for him that the other candidates in the race did not: money and organization. Together, they have allowed him to rebound time and again when the results were disappointing. The other candidates in the race, though they may have a better claim on the "conservative" mantle, have not been able to match Romney state by state in the long march to Tampa. And this has made all the difference.

Where Romney has had a reasonably well-oiled team on the ground in most states the other candidates have had to assemble things as they go, in essence parachuting in on a state-by-state basis hoping to raise the stakes and eke out a win significant enough to derail the former governor's campaign. And, while Romney may have been thrown off his game more than once, the money and organization that stand behind him have always provided him the luxury of a reasonably soft landing and a quick recovery.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Mitt Romney.]

It is also important to recognize that Romney seems to do best in those states where Republicans need to do well—but cannot always be expected to—if they are going to win the general election. The South is solidly Republican. The battleground states of Michigan and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and Iowa and Ohio are not, at least not at the presidential level. They are up for grabs even though a convincing case can be made that most of them are, for the moment at least, leaning against giving Obama a second bite at the presidential apple.

In the end it's a numbers game—and Romney has focused, like Obama four years ago, on winning enough delegates to win the nomination rather than winning the primaries. It's a cool, methodical approach that seems to be paying off. There are those who say Romney is not conservative enough to be the nominee of the GOP, that he's not to be trusted on issues of critical importance to the party faithful, and that he just can't connect with people. Ideological questions aside, and people need to reach their own conclusions where those are concerned, the primary results and the delegate count seem to suggest otherwise.

  • Read the U.S. News debate: Can Romney's Rivals Force Him Into a Brokered Convention?
  • Check out U.S. News Weekly: an insiders guide to politics and policy.
  • Follow the Thomas Jefferson Street blog on Twitter at @TJSBlog.