The Note’s Must-Reads for Wednesday, March 21, 2012

By Amanda VanAllen

Mar 21, 2012 2:57am

Compiled by ABC News’ Amanda VanAllen, Carrie Halperin and Erin McLaughlin

The Note’s Must-Reads are a round-up of today’s political headlines and stories from ABC News and the top U.S. newspapers. Posted Monday through Friday right here at www.abcnews.com

ILLINOIS PRIMARY – MITT ROMNEY
ABC News’ Gary Langer: “Better-Off, Better Educated Voters Boost Romney in Illinois” An improved sense that he understands voters’ problems boosted Mitt Romney to victory in the Illinois primary, as did a less religiously focused, less strongly conservative electorate than he’s faced in other contests, especially to the south. But a shortfall among less well-heeled Republicans marks his continued challenges. Indeed exit poll results indicated that Romney owed his victory in Illinois to two groups: voters with more than $100,000 in household incomes and those with college degrees. Among those less educated, or less well-off, he only split the vote with Rick Santorum. LINK

The New York Daily News’ Alison Gendar: “Romney wins Republican presidential primary in Illinois” Mitt Romney scored a big Heartland win in Illinois Tuesday, knocking back Rick Santorum and leaving himself poised to grab the GOP front-runner mantle for good. Some 30 minutes after the Prairie State polls closed, with only 3% of the vote counted, Fox News called the contest for the former Massachusetts governor, who was then up 55% to 27% over Santorum. CNN, NBC and the Associated Press later made the same prediction. Romney outspent the ex-senator from Pennsylvania by more than 7 to 1, hoping for momentum as the race heads to Louisiana on Saturday, where he will face a tougher go against the evangelical-adored Santorum. LINK

The Hill’s Josh Lederman: “Romney takes on President Obama, general election in Illinois victory speech” Mitt Romney took the fight to President Obama as he declared victory in Illinois on Tuesday, sounding more like a presidential nominee than a primary candidate still scrambling for delegates. Speaking to supporters in Schaumburg, Ill., after easily winning the state’s primary, Romney congratulated his Republican rivals, then turned his sights on the Democrat he hopes to unseat in November. “Tonight was a primary, but November is the general election, and we’re going to face a defining choice as a people,” Romney said. LINK

The Los Angeles Times’ Paul West: “Illinois primary victory is a big boost for Mitt Romney” Mitt Romney scored a decisive victory over Rick Santorum in the Illinois primary, tightening his grip on the Republican front-runner’s slot and improving his chances of locking up the nomination by the end of the presidential primary season in June. Santorum, meantime, suffered a serious setback in his effort to send the GOP battle spilling onto the floor of the nominating convention in late August. LINK

USA Today’s Judy Keen and Gary Strauss: “Romney sweeps to win in Illinois primary, looks to Louisiana” Mitt Romney swept to another primary victory Tuesday night, capturing a big chunk of Illinois’ GOP primary vote while distancing himself from rival Rick Santorum. After winning primaries in industrial states Michigan and Ohio, Tuesday’s victory solidified Romney’s front-runner status to face off against President Obama in this fall’s general election. LINK

The Boston Globe’s Matt Viser: “Mitt Romney wins Illinois primary” Mitt Romney won the Illinois primary Tuesday, according to the Associated Press, stunting the momentum of former senator Rick Santorum and pocketing a crucial batch of delegates as the campaign begins to shift to more favorable territory for the former Massachusetts governor.  Romney, who spent the past four days campaigning in Illinois, was expected to win the vast majority of the 54 delegates at stake. AP called the race for Romney about 44 minutes after the polls closed at 8 p.m. LINK

Bloomberg’s Julie Hirschfeld Davis and John McCormick: “Romney Bids to Regain Inevitability Aura in Illinois Primary” Mitt Romney sought a win in today’s Illinois primary to restore the air of inevitability that once surrounded his quest for the Republican presidential nomination, as his closest rival Rick Santorum tried to stay viable with a strong showing. As polls closed, no immediate victory projections were made by television networks. LINK

Politico’s Maggie Habberman: “Illinois Republican primary results: 5 takeaways” It was a Mitt Romney rout. The front-runner crushed Rick Santorum in Illinois, a win which might swing the narrative toward Romney after a topsy-turvy primary fight.  LINK

The Washington Times’ Ralph Z. Hallow Finally: “Romney gets tea party support” The organization that ignited the tea party as a national mass movement gave Mitt Romney perhaps his biggest victory yet, deciding to drop its opposition to his candidacy, a top executive in the group told The Washington Times  LINK

The New York Times’ Jim Rutenberg and Jeff Zeleny: “Romney Wins by Wide Margin in Illinois” Mitt Romney swept to victory in the Illinois Republican primary on Tuesday, using the full force of his campaign and an argument that he has the best chance of defeating President Obama to overcome doubts among the more conservative voters at the heart of his party. LINK

ILLINOIS PRIMARY – RICK SANTORUM
The Hill’s Jonathan Easley: “Santorum launches second half of campaign in Illinois concession speech” Rick Santorum lost badly to Mitt Romney in Illinois on Tuesday, but used his concession speech to launch the second half of his campaign, reminding voters that the Republican primary was only at its midpoint. “I grew up in this great state,” Santorum told a crowd in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. “We wanted to come here to Pennsylvania to launch our campaign in Pennsylvania. We’ve got five weeks, five weeks to win and for a big delegate sweep in Pennsylvania.” LINK

PRESIDENT OBAMA
The Wall Street Journal’s Brody Mullins and Danny Yadron: “Obama Piles Up More Cash Than GOP Field” The Republican Party’s extended primary campaign has allowed President Barack Obama to build a huge financial lead for the fall election. New fund-raising reports released Tuesday show that Mr. Obama is stockpiling cash as the GOP hopefuls are burning through their money while campaigning against one another in the primary campaign. LINK

ABC NEWS VIDEOS
“Rick Santorum Asks Supporters to “Saddle Up” LINK
“Mitt Romney Tells Barack Obama, “Enough!” LINK

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