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Mitt Romney won the Illinois Republican presidential primary Tuesday night, re-establishing himself as the frontrunner.
Returns show Romney beating rival Rick Santorum easily. With 63.66 percent of the votes counted, Romney leads with 47 percent to Santorum’s 35 percent. Ron Paul is a distant third at 9 percent and Newt Gingrich breaks up the rear with 8 percent.
News organizations, analyzing exit polls, declared Romney the winner before 9 p.m. EDT.
“This puts Romney back in control,” a leading GOP consultant told Capitol Hill Blue Tuesday night. “This could be the beginning of Santorum’s fade.”
A dismal finish by former Speaker of the House Gingrich also casts doubt on the future of his struggling campaign.
Exit poll results by The Associated Press show Romney was preferred by Illinois primary-goers who said the economy was the top issue in the campaign. The former Massachusetts governor also was overwhelmingly favored by those who said an ability to defeat President Barack Obama was the quality they most wanted in a GOP nominee.