While Republicans have little hopes of stealing Barack Obama’s home state in November, with 69 delegates, the Land of Lincoln will hold a prominent spot at the Republican convention in Tampa. As Republicans across the state hit the polls on Tuesday to vote in the primary, a poll released on Monday finds Mitt Romney has a large lead in Illinois.
A poll of likely primary voters from Public Policy Polling, a firm with connections to prominent Democrats, finds Romney taking 45 percent, followed by Rick Santorum with 30 percent, Newt Gingrich with 12 percent and Ron Paul with 10 percent. The poll of 506 was taken March 17-18 and had a margin of error of +/- 4.4 percent.
Romney also led two polls of Illinois voters unveiled on Friday. With 41 percent in a poll from Rasmussen Reports, the former Massachusetts governor led Santorum, who followed with 32 percent. A poll from We Ask America on behalf of Fox News Chicago showed Romney with a smaller lead -- 37 percent to Santorum’s 31 percent.
Looking to maintain his lead in Illinois, Romney unveiled the support of U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, the veteran congressman who currently represents parts of 30 counties in the southern and middle parts of the state.
“I’m honored to have John’s support,” said Romney. “John is a conservative leader in Illinois and shares my vision of restoring America’s promise through pro-growth policies that will empower small businesses and create jobs. If I’m elected, I look forward to working with him to put these plans into action.”
In his endorsement, Shimkus contrasted Romney’s record with Obama’s.
“America is in the midst of an economic crisis,” Shimkus said. “After three years of President Obama, Illinois voters realize that we must elect someone who understands how to get middle class Americans back to work at good-paying, long-term jobs. Mitt Romney has spent his career in the private sector, and he knows how to get our economy growing again. There is simply no candidate in the race who has a better understanding of what it will take to get our country back to work. That is why I am proud to support Mitt Romney and urge my fellow conservatives to join me.”
Despite trailing in the polls in Illinois, Santorum went all out on Monday to blitz the Prairie State -- but plans to head home to Pennsylvania when the results come in.
Santorum had a busy Monday with two national radio and three national television appearances followed by two Chicago radio appearances and rallies in Rockford and Dixon. His schedule for the afternoon included more national media spots and radio appearances in Chicago and in St. Louis, Mo., to reach voters in its Illinois area, and events in Moline and Peoria.
But come Tuesday night, Santorum will be in a place associated with the 16th president but outside the Land of Lincoln -- Gettysburg, Pa., where he will be as the results from Illinois come in.
Hogan Gidley, a spokesman for Santorum, tried to explain the logic behind Tuesday night's event being held in Pennsylvania.
"Tomorrow marks the Republican primary in the 'Land of Lincoln.' Rick Santorum has chosen to celebrate the evening at the very place President Lincoln gave his most poignant and passionate defense of freedom and the American spirit -- Gettysburg,” Gidley said on Monday. “This week marks the two-year anniversary of the passage of Obamacare -- and we are again fighting for freedom. But this time, we are not asking the American people to put on the uniform of their country, but stand up as citizens -- to stand up to the freedom infringement of this administration and for a candidate and a message focused on empowering the American people. This night will mark an important turn toward the second half of this primary season, with a renewed focus on freedom, empowerment, and nominating a candidate who can draw clear contrasts with President Obama. Rick Santorum is the one candidate who can do that and he will proudly make that declaration of freedom in the tiny Pennsylvania town where so many gave their 'last full measure' in defense of those freedoms."
From there, Santorum turns his focus south to Louisiana where he plans to campaign on Wednesday. Louisiana, which will have 46 delegates in Tampa, holds its primary on Saturday.
While Paul focused on Illinois last week, the Texas congressman will be in Los Angeles on Tuesday night for a fundraiser and an appearance on “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno.
Reach Kevin Derby at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (850) 727-0859.