You'd think Tuesday, the day of the Illinois primary, was shaping up to be a good day for Mitt Romney. There are a lot of delegates at stake and it's a chance for victory in a big state. But the bar has been set pretty high for Romney: the press wants him to win more than 50 percent of the vote. Mathematically, Illinois awards 54 delegates, and Rick Santorum has already ceded 10 by not filing all the right paperwork. Symbolically, though, Illinois would be a victory in a big, diverse state just days after Romney demolished Santorum in Puerto Rico, where Santorum wasted two days campaigning. But it seems like every time Romney gets close to a win, reporters move the goal posts, making any victory seem lame. For example, Romney had to win blue-collar Ohio -- until polls showed he might actually do it, and then he had to win Tennessee. That's happening again to him in Illinois.
"While it seems unlikely given recent polling, if Romney does manage to win more than 50 percent in this Midwestern mega-state it will send a powerful signal that the clock is about to expire for his GOP rivals," Politico's Charlie Mahtesian says. NBC News' First Read goes further:
Every time Romney has had an opportunity to put the race away -- by winning in South Carolina, by winning convincingly in Ohio, by winning just one Deep South state Tennessee, Alabama or Mississippi -- he’s failed to do so. But by decisively winning tonight in Illinois (and we’re talking about a double-digit-plus victory and breaking 50 percent), Romney can deliver a perception blow to Santorum, extinguishing the former Pennsylvania senator’s “insurgent fire,” as the New York Times puts it ... But if Romney only ekes out a single-digit victory tonight after outspending Santorum 7-1, and if he loses Wisconsin, then this demographic split would be for real.