NBC NATIONAL NEWS — He needed a big victory, and he got it.
Mitt Romney wins Illinois and pulls ahead in the Republican race for President.
Illinois was a proving ground for Mitt Romney.
After Michigan and Ohio, the question was, could he do better than barely win a Midwest state?
Last night he did.
"We thank the people of Illinois for their vote and for this extraordinary victory. Thank you so much," Mitt Romney, Presidential Candidate.
In Illinois Mitt Romney's first big victory in the Midwest.
He outspent Rick Santorum 7-to-1 here, and won with 47% of the vote.
A crucial step, Romney says, in defeating President Obama.
"It's time to say these words, this word: enough. We've had enough," declared Mitt Romney, Presidential Candidate.
Exit polls show super-conservatives broke for Santorum. 4 out of 10 identified themselves as evangelical or born again.
"If we get Mitt Romney, we're getting Obama all over again."
But those most concerned about the economy, and defeating President Obama, voted for Romney. "We need to do something about the economy because so many people are unemployed," said Javier Arellano, Chicago, Illinois.
Santorum applauded his second-place finish. "We won the areas that conservatives and Republicans populate, and we're very happy about that. We're happy about the delegates we're going to get, too," said Rick Santorum, Presidential Candidate.
Santorum's banking on Romney being forced to give up some of those delegates if Florida and Arizona are forced to split theirs. Today he's focused on the next contest. "Feeling very, very good about winning Louisiana on Saturday," said Rick Santorum, Presidential Candidate.
The latest poll shows Santorum up by 13 points in Louisiana.