Pretty impressive -- until you learn that it's not.
Illinois voters, at least the ones who bothered to show up, did the math and wound up backing Mitt Romney, a candidate they see as less than thrilling but still the Republican Party's best chance of capturing the White House this fall.
Turnout seems likely to be among the lowest in decades — perhaps the lowest, period. The record low in state records dating back to 1960 is 23 percent, which happened two years ago. Officials in several election districts said Tuesday's turnout was hovering around 20 percent.
Romney easily bested Rick Santorum in the popular vote and captured at least 41 of the 54 delegates at stake, pushing him closer to his party's nomination.
"On all the issues, I disagree with [Romney] less than I do anyone else," an Urbana voter told the AP. "I am not a strong supporter of anybody... Isn't that terrible?"
Feel the excitement!
Low voter turnout has been a hallmark of the Republican primaries so far. There's been plenty of polling that shows low voter enthusiasm, but here it is in action -- non-theoretical and manifest. We've got tumbleweeds rolling through polling places.
While one in three Illinois voters said they were voting for the candidate most likely to beat Obama (a demo Ramney won easily), two in three said they didn't favor a quick nomination process. This shows deep ambivalence toward Romney, even as most of those who bothered to show up voted for him. And the Washington Post's Dan Balz sees signs of trouble for him in the general election -- from conservative voters.
Romney has won every state that has had an exit poll and in which white, evangelical Christians accounted for less than 50 percent of the electorate. He has lost every state where evangelicals made up more than 50 percent of the electorate. Santorum has won five of those, and Newt Gingrich took two.
With four in ten primary voters identifying themselves as evangelical, Illinois was no exception to this trend. Also:
A similar rough boundary line exists for the electorates based on ideological leanings. Romney has won every state with exit polls in which “very conservative” voters have accounted for fewer than 35 percent of the vote. He has lost the states in which the percentage is greater than 35 percent.
In Illinois, the percentage of very conservative voters was a little less than one in three — about the same as in Michigan and Ohio. Romney’s support among these voters fell roughly in between his showings in the other two heartland states.
Patterns based on income and tea party supporters are less sharply etched but also relatively clear. In general, the more voters there are with family incomes above $100,000, the better Romney does. The higher the percentage of strong tea party supporters in a state, the better his opponents perform. The Illinois electorate fell on the upper end of states with a relatively high percentage of high earners and was around the middle in the percentage of strong tea party supporters.
Regardless of whatever handful of voters gave Romney his victory in Illinois, he still takes the lion's share of delegates from that contest. Mitt's well on his way to wrapping this thing up. But in the general election contest ahead, things don't look nearly as bright. It looks like he'll have to go back and win over all the people who voted against him.