You see, the Illinois GOP awards all of its 54 delegates by congressional district—three delegates to the winner of each of the 18 CDs in the state.
Delegates for Santorum in January filed the minimum legal number of petition signatures to appear on the ballot in just four of Illinois' 18 available congressional districts, a review of petition signatures found. In 10 others, delegates who filed signatures came far short of the 600 required to appear on the ballot, a review of the signatures found. They didn't file any delegates in four districts.
"They were woefully short," state treasurer and Romney Illinois campaign Chairman Dan Rutherford said.
The petitions of Santorum delegates were initially challenged in January, but those challenges were withdrawn shortly after they were filed, said Illinois Board of Elections Director Rupert Borgsmiller.
So, had the Romney campaign challenged the Santorum petitions where warranted, Santorum would only be eligible to win 12 of the state's 54 delegates. It would've been a default Romney victory with minimum 42 delegates (or 3.7 percent of the total he needs to clinch the nomination) and he could focus instead on upcoming states, or at least save that $3.4 million (and counting) to use against Obama.
So why didn't the Romney campaign aggressively move to deny Santorum those possible delegates, the way they forced Santorum off the ballot in Virginia? Because that aforementioned Dan Rutherford, Romney's campaign chair in the Land of Lincoln, also happens to be gearing up for a 2014 gubernatorial challenge. And if you hope to win a contested primary, the worst thing he could do is go to the mat for Mitt Romney by denying Rick Santorum his delegates.
Buzzfeed adds to the story:
The decision produced a quiet storm of outrage among Romney's allies in the state, who were bewildered by the decision to make a slam-dunk race competitive, and to grant an opening in the desperate scramble to reach the 1,144 delegates required for the Republican nomination.
"When there is a challenge filed because a campaign doesn't file the required number of signatures, it’s pretty much a no brainer," said a senior Romney supporter in Illinois. "The conservative folks started screaming bloody murder, and Rutherford caved."
Romney will pay dearly for that decision to cave—to the tune of millions of dollars and time that he simply doesn't have.
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