Romney increased his lead in the delegate count with a commanding victory in Puerto Rico, which held its primary Sunday. Early returns showed him winning about 80 percent of the vote and he was projected to claim all 20 delegates in the U.S. territory, where both he and Santorum campaigned hard in recent days.
Reveling in the night’s results and looking ahead to a strong showing in Illinois, Ann Romney effectively called for an end to the 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, standing alongside her husband at a Sunday evening town hall meeting in Vernon Hills.
But Santorum, who spent Sunday in Louisiana, which will hold its primary Saturday, cast his insurgent candidacy in religious terms and said he should not be dismissed easily.
“One of the great blessings I’ve had in every political campaign is people underestimate me, people underestimate what God can do,” Santorum said at a Louisiana church, according to the Associated Press.
But the focus of the race was on Illinois, where both men will be campaigning Monday. This latest battleground in the Romney-Santorum rivalry will hold an open primary Tuesday that will award 54 bound delegates proportionally and provide a jolt of momentum to the victor.
Romney is hoping a pocketbook pitch will pull female voters toward him and increase his lead over the former senator from Pennsylvania. At each stop Sunday, Romney repeated his call on Obama to fire the “gas-hike trio” — Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson.
“You’ve got moms that are driving their kids to school and practice after school and other appointments and wonder how they can afford putting gasoline in the car, at the same time putting food on the table night after night,” Romney told supporters at a pancake breakfast in Moline, Ill.
“This president doesn’t understand the economy. It’s time to put in place an economic heavyweight, and I am, and I’ll get that job done,” added Romney, who worked 25 years as a businessman before launching his political career.
Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod responded to Romney’s attacks in an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation” in which he criticized the former Massachusetts governor’s record.