Illinois was a breeze for Mitt Romney, and yes, numerically, maybe it’s getting close to done. But state by state, this still isn’t over. Rick Santorum remains likely to win Louisiana, which is next. Then comes Wisconsin on April 3. Santorum is still about 15 points ahead there right now. And it looks like Santorum has taken Missouri—again. So while Illinois probably means that Romney is on his way to the nomination, and maybe on his way to 1,144 delegates, it’s also a fact that Santorum isn’t going anywhere—and it’s the fact of Santorum’s continued presence in the race that is probably more meaningful, for the time being, than the number of delegates Romney has won.
As I wrote recently, Romney still has to gut this out. The question after Tuesday night is this: does Romney’s sense of inevitably overtake the idea that he is still going to lose a significant number of these remaining primaries? To the political professionals, it does. But to voters in Nebraska and Indiana and West Virginia and Arkansas and Kentucky? What this means for Romney, even though he is now the putative nominee, is that he’s still going to face Tuesday nights where he’ll have some explaining to do. He may be on the verge of sealing things numerically, but he still has work to do to seal it emotionally.