Atlanta (CNN) – Fresh off twin victories in the Deep South, Rick Santorum's campaign Wednesday made its first ad purchase in Illinois as that state's primary shapes up as a major battle for momentum in the Republican primary race.
Santorum's campaign bought $122,500 worth of time on cable throughout the state, according to a Republican ad buying source not affiliated with the campaigns or super PACs. Illinois holds its Republican primary Tuesday.
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His campaign expects to build their coffers following Tuesday's wins in Alabama and Mississippi, expecting fundraising "in the proximity of a million dollars," senior strategist John Brabender told CNN.
Mitt Romney's campaign also recently went up with ads in Illinois. As CNN previously reported, it bought $939,400 worth of broadcast and cable time for ads beginning Wednesday, according to the Republican consultant.
The super PAC supporting Romney, Restore Our Future, is also giving him a major boost in the state, buying almost $2.5 million in time for ads airing both on broadcast and cable.
While Romney and Santorum will be campaigning in Puerto Rico this week ahead of the territory's primary on Sunday, both the Santorum and Romney campaigns know a lot is riding on Illinois.
Romney held a telephone town hall with Illinois residents Wednesday afternoon. Unlike statements issued by his campaign and an interview earlier in the day, Romney did not emphasize the "inevitability argument," and did not mention his delegate lead in the GOP race. Instead he touted his business and leadership experience, as well as his economic knowledge, as reasons he is best qualified to be the nominee.
Romney attacked Santorum and Newt Gingrich for having "spent their life in Washington," while touting his "experience of 25 years in the business world," saying it gave him the credentials necessary to help the economy.
"The economy is my wheel house," Romney said on the telephone town hall.
He repeated earlier attacks on Santorum as an "economic lightweight" and said neither the former Pennsylvania senator nor former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has spent any time in the private sector. Santorum held private sector positions after leaving Congress, and Gingrich ran several consulting companies after his tenure ended.
Romney used his business background, including balancing budgets, as a way to attack President Barack Obama.
"If you ask what will most help me defeat Obama (it is) knowledge and credibility about the real economy," he said. Romney also repeated attacks on the president, saying "he never led anything" and "did not have experience in the real economy" when he was elected.
One caller said he was familiar with Romney's management experience running the venture capital firm Bain Capital and suggested he talk more about that in the campaign as a way to sell himself.
Romney did concede "maybe I ought to talk more about my experience," and went on to list his jobs as governor of Massachusetts, leader of the Salt Lake Olympics and as a "conservative businessman," saying each position demonstrated his ability to lead.
His time at Bain Capital was the focus of attack ads earlier in the campaign by the pro-Gingrich super PAC Winning Our Future, which pointed out that some of the companies taken over by Bain were later closed, forcing layoffs.
Romney said he will campaign in Illinois in the days before next Tuesday's primary, and his campaign announced a breakfast event on Friday before traveling to campaign in Puerto Rico.
The candidate pointed to endorsements from conservative supporters, acknowledging the word 'establishment' can carry a negative connotation.
Acknowledging the race is nowhere near the finish line, the pro-Romney Restore Our Future recently bought time in a contest being held next month. It purchased $500,000 for ads to start running Thursday in Wisconsin, which votes April 3rd, according to the Republican media buying source.