A clearly elated Mitt Romney was looser and funnier in his victory speech after a blowout win in Illinois. With over 50 percent of the vote counted, he leads by more than 15 points. He won conservatives and moderates, men and women, Catholics, all income groups above $50,000, and all age groups.
In his speech, he ignored his primary opponents and zeroed in on the president with a message about economic freedom. He told the crowd Obama lacked his private sector experience and economic know-how. “You don’t learn that teaching constitutional law at the University of Chicago,” he cracked. He was generally sunny and forward looking: “I see an America that is humble, but is never humbled. That leads, but is never led.”
He was certainly in good humor: “And now, the President is trying to erase his record with rhetoric. Just the other day, he said, ‘We are inventors. We are builders. We are makers of things. We are Thomas Edison. We are the Wright Brothers. We are Bill Gates. We are Steve Jobs.’ That’s true. But the problem is: he’s still Barack Obama.” Ouch.
He also emphasized the breath of his victory in Illinois and around the country (“Elections are about choices. And today, hundreds of thousands of Illinois voters have joined millions across the country in our cause. ”) In other words, he is the consensus candidate and the prohibitive favorite to win the nomination.
The argument that he is a weak frontrunner or has failed to win over the base fades with every victory. The extent of his win and the confident economic message project one thing: presidential.
As for Rick Santorum, his speech, per his usual custom, was unscripted and rambling. But Illinois was also his least negative race. He publicly congratulated Romney, and tried to take credit for Romney’s economic freedom theme. It certainly looked as if, for Santorum, the light is dawning and recognition is slowly setting in: He’s not doing to be the nominee. In his excessively long speech, you could sense he is not keen on trashing the presumptive nominee. And in his cluelessness that he was speaking way to long and with nothing new to say you sensed, “This is a senator trying to run for president.” You have to wonder how much longer and to what end he will continue on.