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Delegate-rich Illinois the focus of GOP next week
Romney well positioned in GOP's next-up Illinois, but Santorum threatens with Louisiana next.
By The Associated Press

CHICAGO (AP) ' Mitt Romney hopes to reclaim his front-runner's momentum in Illinois, a state made more competitive recently by surging Rick Santorum.

Illinois -- with 54 delegates at stake on Tuesday -- kicks off a series of five Republican presidential nominating contests in the next two weeks. They include Louisiana on March 24 and another Midwestern battleground, Wisconsin, on April 3 before a three-week lull.

Maryland and the District of Columbia also vote April 3, as the primary campaign enters its fourth month.

Romney is well organized in Illinois and expected to do well in the Chicago suburbs. Santorum's appeal to evangelical conservatives could make him appealing in the rural downstate area. Both are campaigning there this weekend.

Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul have campaigned little in Illinois.

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