I saw the Romney machine up close and personal when the circus came to Illinois where I live.
Two weeks ago polls showed Santorum pulling even with Romney, but last week the polls suddenly seemed to reverse to show a large Romney edge.
Romney's PAC broadcast anti-Santorum ads, but there were no pro-Gingrich or pro-Santorum or pro-Paul ads, nor any anti-Romney ads on television. The Romney ads weren't persuasive, but the entire absence of any countering message made it clear to the public that the others can not or will not challenge Romney in any meaningful way.
Election day came, and it turns out Santorum does not even have a slate of delegates in many districts, so voters could choose him as a preference and still be forced to choose between Romney, Paul, and Gingrich delegate slates. Since Ron Paul's campaign already made a deal with Romney to sabotage the Missouri caucus, and since libertarians are more likely to side with a non-evangelical, that means that any vote for the Paul slate was a vote for Romney. The ballots had a write-in space for president, but not for delegate, so there was no chance to write-in Santorum delegate choices. Moreover, Santorum was listed the lowest of any candidate for president, even below those who had withdrawn.
In short, both Gingrich and Santorum are sock puppets. They have both ended their negative attacks on Romney, probably under threat; and they are both probably being paid to stay in the race to prevent an anti-Romney coalition from forming. The 1% really believe they can put over an unpopular candidate simply by manipulating the election process. The question is, how does that play out in the general election? Can they find a popular semi-progressive to run a third party campaign to take votes from Obama? Or are saturation advertising and election manipulation the only tricks in their book?
Romney's influence in Illinois did not mean that he didn't take time out to mess with the vote. In some less affluent suburban areas of Santorum strength like Downers Grove, it was reported that some ballots were too wide by 1/16th of an inch to fit in the voting machines and could not be counted. This was blamed on a printer, but the reaction of the poll workers was to take the ballots, put them in the box with the ballots that were counted by the machine and assure the voters they would be "hand counted." Apparently, problems with the voting were found in 26 counties, including a late reshuffling of polling places in DuPage County, the biggest Republican county in Illinois, which is less affluent than Lake, McHenry, and northern Cook counties, and that will reduce turnout. What's more, the main commuting artery in the south suburbs, a place of evangelical strength, was shut down by a hydrochloric acid truck going sideways across the freeway. The truck was not destroyed, but a new truck had to be brought to transfer the hydrochloric acid from one truck to the other. The highway was shut down at noon and will be shut down until after the polls close, so any south suburban voters who did not vote in the morning will be unable to vote in the evening. In the end turnout was almost exactly the same as 2008. Romney did increase his share by 170,000 votes from his 2008 showing, but that was not a lot considering the amounts spent. Romney was held to under 50% of the total vote, but he is likely to pick up more than half the delegates. It is difficult to see how they can stop him from a first ballot victory if they don't have full delegate slates in every primary.
On the television news at 5 p.m., even though the polls were still open, the anchors were openly suggesting that Romney would win decisively and interviewed him saying, "hopefully this will put Santorum in the rear view mirror." Romney's arrogance and anger were palpable, but that makes sense. Since Santorum is only still in the race as a sock puppet, it is exceptionally humiliating for Romney that Santorum still has electoral strength.