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Illinois GOP primary seen as increasingly relevant in presidential race

A top Illinois Republican says the state's primary could play a significant role in the GOP presidential race after Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich all claimed victories in the Super Tuesday primaries.

Speaking before the results trickled in Tuesday night, Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady said the continuing close race for the presidential nomination could make Illinois' upcoming primary more nationally relevant.

With the state's Republican primary scheduled for March 20, common thought was the race would be all but over by mid-March.

Brady said that's not the case any longer.

"They [the candidates] want to win our primary," Brady said. "There are 69 delegates out there, so I think it's important they come here and win in Illinois."

Illinois has 54 delegate votes up for grabs, plus another 15 awarded by state party officials, including Brady.

Romney currently leads all candidates with 415 delegates, more than double Santorum, who trails Romney with 176.

Mississippi, Alabama, Kansas and Hawaii are scheduled to hold primaries prior to Illinois'.

Romney, Santorum and Gingrich are all scheduled to visit Illinois before the state's March 20 primary.

Ron Paul is also on the Republican ballot.

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