Romney wins in Illinois, sets sights on Obama

Washington: Republican Mitt Romney today came close to becoming the White House challenger sweeping to a decisive victory in the Illinois presidential primary routing chief rival Rick Santorum and setting his sights on President Barack Obama. After his narrow margin win in battleground states like Michigan and Ohio and losses in southern states, Romney recorded a sweeping victory in Illinois bagging 47 per cent of the delegate votes compare to 35 per cent for Santorum, 9 per cent for Texas Rep. Ron Paul and 8 per cent for a fading former speaker Newt Gingrich.

Using the full force of campaign argument that he has the best chance of beating Obama, Romney trained his guns on the president in his victory speech saying the November 4 election would be a choice for American people between "economic freedom" and "job killing regulations". "It`s time to say these words, this word: enough. We`ve had enough. We know our future. We know our future`s brighter than these troubled times. We still believe in America. We deserve a President who believes in us," Romney said.

Illinois is the third state in the industrial midwest that Romney has carried in the last month and would provide him momentum in relatively moderate states of Wisconsin, Maryland and Washington DC which go to polls on April 3. The sizable win in Illinois would give Romney cushion ahead of an expected Satorum win in Louisiana on Saturday. The state headed by Indian-American Governor Bobby Jindal.

Underdog Santorum unmoved by the widening lead of Romney rallied supporters in his home state of Pennsylvania to help him "close the gap". Romney now has 516 delegates out of 1,144 needed to win the nomination at the Republican National Convention in late August in Tampa, Florida. Santorum has 263 delegates, Gingrich 135 and Paul 50.