Down to the wire in Illinois
Despite polls showing Romney up by as much as 9 points over Rick Santorum, Mitt isn't taking any chances. He will blitz the state of Illinois today, after spending most of the day yesterday caravanning the norther tier of the state where most of his support is drawn.
Romney is worried that a lack of passion among his supporters will mean a lower turnout in the Chicago suburbs where most of his voters are likely to come. Meanwhile Santorum is drawing large crowds in the central and southern part of the state and has the enthusiastic backing of tea party and evangelical voters.
"Sen. Santorum, I think, has the same characteristic as the president in terms of his background," Romney told a crowd of more than 200 people at an American Legion hall pancake breakfast in Moline. "He spent his life in government. Nothing wrong with that. But right now we need somebody who understands the economy fundamentally."
Santorum, who campaigned in Louisiana on Sunday before returning to Illinois with a full schedule Monday, impugned Romney's oft-touted management skills. The former Pennsylvania senator seemed to indicate that his ability to stay in the race despite being outspent and out-organized is an indictment of Romney's leadership.
"The real question you should ask ... is Gov. Romney, why, with tens and hundreds of millions of dollars, hasn't he been able to do anything to get this nomination even close to cemented away?" Santorum said onCNN's"State of the Union." "That shows a real weakness in his ability to be able to govern."
The Illinois contest once again finds Romney campaigning heavily in a state that had once been thought of as simply another cog toward his inevitable march to the GOP nomination.
Instead, concerns over lackluster voter turnout and intensity of support for the former Massachusetts governor in the suburbs has made Illinois a question mark as Santorum has worked to energize tea party and religious conservatives throughout the state, especially outside the Chicago area.