Posted at 12:10 AM ET, 03/19/2012

Mitt Romney stumps in Illinois ahead of primary

VERNON HILLS, Ill. – He may be mired in a prolonged primary battle, but Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney confidently looked ahead to the general election on Sunday, joking here that he may win all 50 states and even contest President Obama’s overwhelmingly Democratic home town of Chicago.

Meanwhile, his wife, Ann Romney, celebrating his win in Puerto Rico’s primary and looking ahead to a strong showing in the Illinois primary on Tuesday, effectively called for an end to the GOP nominating contest.

“We need to send a message that it’s time to coalesce, it’s time to come together, it’s time for us to get behind one candidate and get the job done so that we can move on to the next job, which is bringing us one step closer to defeating Barack Obama,” she said as she stood beside her husband at a town hall meeting Sunday night in Vernon Hills.

“We Republicans are all going to get together,” she added, “and we’re going to all unite, because we have a community organizer who’s going to unite us and his name is Barack Obama.”

Mitt Romney said his overwhelming victory in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico suggests that he could win over Hispanic voters in a general election.

“I intend to become our nominee and I intend to get Latino voters to vote for a Republican and take back the White House,” he said.

One man stood during the question-and-answer session to encourage Romney not to concede overwhelmingly Democratic Illinois in the general election. Illinois has not been a battleground in recent presidential elections, but the man told Romney, “I think you can win this state.”

“That’s encouragement,” the candidate replied. “I haven’t decided whether we can get all 50 states or just most of them.”

Romney’s town hall meeting drew 700 people into a steamy gymnasium in this Chicago suburb, with a couple of hundred more listening from the parking lot outside.

Another man asked Romney to compete for votes this fall in Chicago, where the candidate plans to deliver an economic address Monday at the University of Chicago, a few blocks from Obama’s Hyde Park home.

“I look forward to being in Chicago,” Romney said. Then, referencing the city’s mayor and former Obama chief of staff, he added with a laugh: “I’m sure Rahm Emanuel will be in there helping me all the way.”

By  |  12:10 AM ET, 03/19/2012

 
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