Romney takes Illinois: Now can we say the race is over?

“It’s time to say this word: enough. We’ve had enough,” Romney said in his speech. “We know our future’s brighter than these troubled times. We still believe in America, and we deserve a president who believes in us, and I believe in the American people.”

Freedom seems to be the key word for Republicans that they'll continue to attack Obama on throughout the year. Moments after Romney concluded his speech, Rick Santorum gave his Gettysburg address (that's where he was at his his home state of Pennsylvania) by standing in front of a banner that read “FREEDOM,” and he alluded to Romney's inclusion of the word in his speech.

I was pleased to hear before I came out that Governor Romney is now adopting that theme as his speech tonight.

I am — I am glad we are moving the debate here in the Republican Party. But I’ve been focused on this, because I’ve actually been out talking to people across this country, doing over a thousand town hall meetings. And I know the anxiety and the concerns that people have in this country about an ever-expanding government, a government that is trying to dictate how we’re going to live our lives, trying to order us around, trample our freedoms, whether it’s our economic freedoms or our religious liberty.

But in addition to trampling that freedom, in addition to building a dependency, a dependency on government, as we see government expand and grow, now almost half the people in this country depend on some form of federal payment to help them get — make ends meet in America. And after and if Obamacare is implemented, every single American will depend upon the federal government for something that is critical, their health and their life.

That’s why this election is so important. This is an election about fundamental and foundational things. This is an election about not who’s the best person to manage Washington or manage the economy. We don’t need a manager. We need someone who’s going to pull up government by the roots and throw it out and do something to liberate the private sector in America. That’s what we need.

Newt Gingrich, who came in last place last night with just 8 percent of the vote, eschewed giving a televised speech, instead giving some running commentary on the race in an exclusive Fox News interview.

We also learned yesterday that casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and family contributed $5.5 million to Newt's super PAC last month, single-handedly keeping his ever-fading candidacy alive, if barely (in fact, according to Politico, Gingrich will keep on traveling — to visit zoos, if not potential voters, in the weeks to come).

Overall, Adelson has given over $15 million to Gingrich's Winning Our Future super PAC, which is ominous for President Obama. That's because he (and many other conservative bigwigs) have shown they will spend unlimited amounts this campaign season, and all of that money will be funneled against Obama come the summer and fall. And Obama's super PAC hasn't shown that it can compete, this far into the year anyway.

As Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said recently, “Between the various promises between Rove and the Koch brothers, etc. we’re looking at over half a billion dollars in independent spending potentially. We have to be ready for it.”

That is the big story moving forward, as the inevitable Romney-Obama race begins in earnest.

After Mitt Romney's big victory in Illinois last night, the question is simply: Is the GOP race for president now really, really over?

Of course, delegate-wise it isn't and can't be with the way that delegates are apportioned in many of the races still yet to come. The Wall Street Journal reports that even though Romney has amassed almost exactly half of all delegates up for grabs so far, if he were to continue on at his current pace, the earliest he could seal the nomination wouldn't be until the very last primary scheduled on the calendar, June 2 in Utah.

But the only man conceivably who could beat him, Rick Santorum, is looking at a tough month ahead. You've got Louisiana this Saturday, where Santo is expected to win. You have Wisconsin on April 3 that could be a close contest. But you've also got many more states that favor Romney moving forward, including Maryland, D.C., Delaware , NY and Rhode Island before you get to Santorum's home state of Pennsylvania on April 24.

Let's put it this way: the Santorum folks are playing up his odds for late May — when Arkansas, Kentucky and Texas vote. That's nearly two months away, when most of the nation, if not the GOP establishment, seems ready to anoint Mittens right now, so they can move on to bigger and better things, such as trashing Barack Obama every day, not each other.

By the way, did you see Romney's victory speech last night in Illinois?


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