Against a backdrop of polls showing Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum in another neck-and-neck race, Illinois gives the former Massachusetts governor a chance to bolster his delegate lead over the former Pennsylvania senator.
Illinois also offers Romney, under pressure following former Santorum’s victories in Alabama and Mississippi, an opportunity to regain momentum in the Midwest and seriously deflate Santorum’s hopes of winning the Republican nomination.
Although Romney staged last-minute comebacks to win in two other big Midwestern states — Ohio and Michigan — a poll released Monday indicates he is in better shape at this stage of the game in Illinois, The Washington Post
The poll, conducted by the Chicago Tribune and WGN-TV, showed Romney with 35 percent of the vote, Santorum with 31 percent, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia with 12 percent, and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas with 7 percent.
Another advantage for Romney, according to the Post, is that Santorum failed to qualify a full slate of delegates on the primary ballot in Illinois — the same situation he faced in Ohio.
The recession, as in other Midwestern states, is expected to be a key issue in Illinois. The state has struggled with unemployment that is higher than the national average, serious state budgetary problems, and a bond rating that is one of the lowest in the nation, the Post reported.
Given that Chicago is President Barack Obama’s home town and that Democratic nominees have won Illinois in the past five presidential elections, any Republican nominee will face an uphill battle in the general election, according to the Post.
Other contests facing the candidates in the next week are caucuses Saturday in Missouri and a primary Sunday in Puerto Rico.
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