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Posted at 09:46 PM ET, 03/20/2012

Illinois voters picked the economy

Maybe the Republican rank-and-file are keeping their collective eye on the ball. Fifty eight percent of the GOP voters who turned out in the Illinois primary said the economy was the most important issue.

Mitt Romney stuck to an economic message based on his experience. Rick Santorum never settled on what his Illinois campaign was about, but it wasn't the economy. The bottom fell out of the Santorum campaign, and he got buried by Romney's money. Being vastly outspent wasn't the former senator's only problem.

Romney has the advantage again in campaign 2012. Romney doesn't have to worry about losing the nomination; he has to worry more about how he is going shape his image as a winner. He needs peace among his rivals and for the party to rally around him. Peace won't come easy. Romney's attacks on his rivals have been brutal, and his opponents take it personally. An enthusiastic GOP rally around Romney is not automatic. He is almost a winner by default rather than by defeating an appealing, credible opponent. The other candidates need to be embraced even as some contests continue, and Romney needs a bigger, sharper, clearer economic offer that Republicans can remember and that sets a clear contrast with President Obama.

Romney doesn't need to attack Obama yet, but no doubt the Obama reelection campaign will notice that Republicans are settling on a candidate who will run a campaign about the economy and not the booby-trapped social issues campaign they were hoping for.

By  |  09:46 PM ET, 03/20/2012

 
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