Illinois votes for its GOP candidate of choice today, with 69 delegates at stake—the second-most of any state so far. Here's what the experts at Politico and the Daily Beast have their eye on:
- Can Mitt Romney crack 50%? Polls have Romney heavily favored in the state, and with Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich barely trying, passing the simple majority mark is possible. That would "send a powerful signal that the clock is about to expire for his GOP rivals," writes Charles Mahtesian for Politico.
- Delegates vs. votes: When voters check a candidate's name in this primary, they're just expressing a preference—their actual delegates are selected by name further down the ballot. Santorum's supporters are generally less-well-educated, and might neglect to mark both, Ben Jacobs muses at the Daily Beast, giving Romney delegates in counties Santorum "won."
- Santorum fans' second choice: Santorum didn't file paperwork to get delegates on the ballot in four districts, so people voting for him will have only Romney, Gingrich, and Paul delegates to pick from. Will they gravitate toward Gingrich as an anti-Romney vote?
- Can Romney win downstate? Illinois is split between urban "Chicagoland," (Cook County and the five affluent "collar counties" around it) and rural "downstate" (everywhere else). Chicagoland is perfect for Romney, while downstate looks like a Santorum state.
- Will Newt crack 10%? Polling has him at 13%, but among early voters that fell to 8%. A single-digit finish would, needless to say, be highly embarrassing.