POSTED: Tuesday, March 20, 2012 - 5:30pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, March 20, 2012 - 5:34pm
NBC NATIONAL NEWS — In the Republican race for the White House, it's another possibly pivotal day: The Illinois primary.
It's the latest face off between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum.
If Rick Santorum has a shot at the GOP nomination, most observers agree, he has to win today in what feels physically, like a hot race.
A big day for Mitt Romney with fifty-four delegates up for grabs today.
And for Rick Santorum, he needs to beat Romney in the midwest after failing to in Michigan and Ohio.
But santorum made a gaffe. Campaigning against intrusive government.
"I don't care what the unemployment rate's going to be. Doesn't matter to me," said Santorum.
Then Mitt romney pounced. "I do care about the unemployment rate. It does bother me."
Santorum had to back-pedal.
"Of course I care about the unemployment rate. I want the unemployment rate to go down. But I'm saying my candidacy doesn't hinge on whether the unemployment rate goes up and down. Our candidacy is about something that transcends that. It's about freedom," said Santorum.
The republican race might hinge on Louisiana.
Newt Gingrich campaigned there today.
The primary is Saturday.
It's a chance for the frontrunner to prove he can win in the south.
CNBC Chief Washington Correspondent John Harwood says "if Mitt Romney can hold this lead which looks to be near double digits if not over double digits in Illinois. Thirty he could get a boost going into Louisiana which is one of those away games in the deep south. Thirty-six if he can win down there he might begin to salt away this nomination."
Illinois has Sixty-nine delegates in all, to be chosen in a complex process.