A political tip sheet for the rest of us outside the Washington Beltway, for Tuesday, March 20, 2012:
ILLINOIS: IT'S COMPLICATED. Illinois has a total of 69 GOP delegates but only 54 were at stake in Tuesday's primary. An additional 12 will be elected at the party's state convention in June and the remaining three are automatic Republican National Committee delegates. The state has a unique system of awarding delegates that is not determined by the statewide vote. In addition to the statewide vote for president, voters in each of the state's 18 congressional districts are voting for individual delegates to the party's national convention, who are identified by the presidential candidate they support. Rick Santorum has only 44 delegates on the ballot, so he is limited in his ability to win delegates, regardless of how well he does in the statewide vote.
ADD ONE FOR MITT: Romney's supporters in Wyoming have successfully challenged a delegate to the party's national convention that had been awarded to rival Rick Santorum. It shows the lengths the campaigns are willing to go to fight over a single delegate. Twelve of Wyoming's 29 delegates were elected at county conventions earlier this month. Romney now has eight, Santorum has two, Ron Paul has one, and one is uncommitted.
SANTORUM DELEGATE TRACKERS FIGHT BACK: The Santorum campaign has a whole other take on the overall delegate count. Its count cuts back on Romney's delegates and assumes that the Republican National Committee will force Florida and Arizona to allocate their delegates on a proportional basis instead of winner-take-all as the states decided. Romney won both states.
REMEMBER TIM? His campaign is long over, but the red-ink hangover continues for former GOP presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty. He's whittled his campaign debt down to $17,500, according to a federal campaign report filed Tuesday. It is down considerably from the nearly half-million dollars Pawlenty owed last fall. He dropped out of the White House race in August.
FUNNY? NOT? More evidence that humor is risky in the heat of a campaign. Actor Robert De Niro opened a fundraiser starring Michelle Obama by listing her Republican rivals and jokingly suggesting that America isn't "ready for a white first lady." Newt Gingrich was not amused, and the Obama campaign said the quip was inappropriate. De Niro opened a New York fundraiser on Monday night by listing the wives of Republicans running for president. "Callista Gingrich. Karen Santorum. Ann Romney," he said. "Now do you really think our country is ready for a white first lady?" The crowd of big-dollar donors waiting to hear from the nation's first black first lady roared in approval, and De Niro finished: "Too soon, right?"
AP DELEGATE COUNT
Heading into Illinois' balloting:
_Mitt Romney: 522
_Rick Santorum: 253
_Newt Gingrich: 135
_Ron Paul: 50
WHERE THEY'LL BE ON WEDNESDAY
_Paul: off the campaign trail
ILLINOIS VOTERS HAVE THEIR SAY
_Homemaker Catherine Lopez, in Winnetka, voted for Romney, saying he's most capable of defeating Obama.
"OK, maybe he's not charismatic," Lopez said. "But we've had enough charisma with Obama. We need competence."
_Retiree Richard Zellers, in St. Joseph, voted for Santorum, saying he's the best candidate "to get President Obama out."
The retired Kraft foods worker added that "if a frog was running against Obama," he'd vote for the frog.