Illinois an upcoming GOP battleground

  • Donald Trump pauses as Sen. Marco Rubio and Sen. Ted Cruz greet at a break during a Republican presidential primary debate.

    Donald Trump pauses as Sen. Marco Rubio and Sen. Ted Cruz greet at a break during a Republican presidential primary debate. Associated Press File Photo

 
 
Posted3/2/2016 5:06 AM

With Super Tuesday over, Illinois joins a handful of other big states as a looming battleground on the primary calendar for Republicans.

Illinois, which shares its March 15 primary with four states, is a delegate-rich bounty that could put a front-running Donald Trump over the top or help boost a challenger toward a spring race for the nomination.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"March 15 could be the last shot for the establishment to rally around a candidate," Northern Illinois University political scientist Matt Streb said.

Among states that share the primary date, Ohio and Florida have a winner-take-all cache of delegates and home-state candidates in Gov. John Kasich and Sen. Marco Rubio, if both stay in the race.

Illinois, with 69 delegates mostly elected directly by congressional district, could be a sort of neutral ground, said Chris Mooney, director of the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois.

Illinois in 2012 helped put Republican Mitt Romney over the top in his primary race against former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. The state's favoring of Romney might suggest Republican voters here lean toward so-called establishment candidates.

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Though March 15 is the next primary date full of big states, races March 8 in Michigan and other locations could still change the picture for Illinois.

"Two weeks is a long time right now," Mooney said.

Meanwhile, Illinois could be in line for more candidate appearances.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is scheduled to be at the Northwest Suburban Republican Lincoln Day Dinner in Rolling Meadows March 11, just days before the primary.

But Trump has drawn crowds -- and delegates -- wherever he goes and Mooney says he can't be counted out here.

"People like to vote for a winner," he said.

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