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Romney Beats Santorum In Illinois Primary

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Mitt Romney discusses his victory in the Illinois Republican primary at a rally in suburban Schaumburg. (Credit: CBS)

Mitt Romney discusses his victory in the Illinois Republican primary at a rally in suburban Schaumburg. (Credit: CBS)

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Updated 03/20/12 – 10:07 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) – Mitt Romney has won the Republican presidential primary in Illinois, easily beating rival Rick Santorum.

With 89 percent of precincts in Illinois reporting, Romney had 47 percent of the vote in Illinois, compared to 35 percent for Santorum.

In declaring victory at a rally in Schaumburg, Romney said, “Elections are about choices and today hundreds of thousands of people in Illinois have joined millions of people across the country to join our cause. … We shared a conviction that the America we loved was in trouble and adrift without strong leadership.”

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Romney slammed President Barack Obama’s economic policies, saying the president has stifled the nation’s economic recovery, led to rising gas prices, and prevented unemployment from shrinking more quickly than it should.

“After years of too many apologies and not enough jobs, historic drops in income and historic highs in gas prices, a president who doesn’t hesitate to use all the means necessary to force the Obamacare on the American public, but leads from behind in the world, it’s time to say … enough, we’ve had enough,” Romney said.

Romney, who spoke Monday at the University of Chicago, also belittled Obama’s time spent teaching constitutional law at the same university, while touting his own background as a business career as private equity investor.

“For 25 years, I lived and breathed business, and the economy, and jobs. I had successes and failures. But each step of the way, I learned a little bit more about what it is that makes our American system so powerful,” Romney said. “You can’t learn that teaching constitutional law at the University of Chicago, alright? You can’t even learn that as a community organizer.”

Romney said Obama doesn’t understand the nation’s economy.

“The American economy is fueled by freedom,” Romney added. “Over the last three years, this administration has been engaged in an all-out assault on our freedom.”

Santorum, who was watching returns from his home state of Pennsylvania, congratulated Romney on winning in Illinois, but said he was beating Romney in the state’s conservative regions and said he was happy he’d still be picking up several delegates in Illinois. He also said he was confident he would win Saturday’s primary in Louisiana.

“This is an election about, not who’s the best person to manage Washington or manage the economy. We don’t need a manager. We need someone who’s going to pull up government by the roots and throw it out and do something to liberate the private sector in America,” Santorum said at a rally in Gettysburg.

He also painted himself as the best equipped to turn around the nation’s economy.

“It’s great to have Wall Street experience. I don’t have Wall Street experience, but I have experience growing up in a small town in western Pennsylvania, growing up in a steel town, growing up in public housing and apartments and seeing how men and women of this country scraped and clawed because they had the opportunity to climb the ladder of success in America,” Santorum said. “A lot of those folks out there today fee like nobody in Washington and no one in this debate is really talking about them.”

The candidates will divide up 54 delegates from the Illinois primary. Romney has already collected more than all of his rivals combined and he says his lead is already big enough that he’ll eventually be the GOP nominee. But Santorum insists the race is actually much closer.

Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul let the two frontruners fight it out in Illinois. Gingrich spent his day campaigning in Louisiana.

“I think we have a very, very good chance to win a lot of delegates here in Louisiana,” he said.

Voters in Louisiana head to the polls Saturday.

More than 20 counties in Illinois reported problems with ballots Tuesday. The ballots were too large for the scanning machines, which required them to be trimmed before they could be counted.

–CBS News Correspondent Danielle Nottingham contributed to this report.

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