Elections 2012: Illinois Polls Give Romney Wide Lead Over Santorum

An American Research Group poll released Monday indicated Romney had a solid lead over Santorum.

Mitt Romney has been steadily building a lead in pledged delegates, but Tuesday's Illinois primary may be where he regains the perception of momentum in the Republican nomination contest. Photo: BU Interactive News/Flickr

There are  54 delegates at stake in Tuesday’s Illinois primary. It follows a strong Romney victory in Puerto Rico, where the former Massachusetts governor picked up all 20 delegates at stake on Sunday by winning more than 80% of the vote, reports CNN.

According to the poll conducted byPublic Policy Polling, Romney leads the conservative Santorum by 45 percent to 30 percent in Illinois.

A survey by the American Research Group found a similar result, with Romney leading Santorum 44 percent to 30 percent.

All the five polls found former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Rep. Ron Paul running far behind the two front-runners.

Gingrich received the support of between 12 and 14 percent of likely Republican primary voters, while Ron Paul won between 7 and 10 percent, tells The Huff Post.

Meanwhile, Romney and Santorum launched a new round of attacks on each other. Romney called his rival an “economic lightweight” and Santorum accused Romney, the former head of a private equity firm, of being “a Wall Street financier” who would have a hard time winning in November, according to Reuters.

Romney spoke about economy in Chicago on Monday in order to promote what he feels is his strength, a working knowledge of the economy as a former businessman.

“I am running for president because I have the experience and the vision to get us out of this mess,” Romney said. “I am offering a real choice and a new beginning. And I have a conservative economic plan that will deliver more jobs, less debt and smaller government.”

But Santorum tried to turn that argument against Romney on Monday.

“What kind of conservative says, ‘I’m the guy because of my economic experience that can create jobs’? I don’t know. We conservatives generally think government doesn’t create jobs,” Santorum said.

“I heard Governor Romney here call me an economic lightweight because I wasn’t a Wall Street financier like he was,” Santorum told a crowd in Rockford, Illinois. “Do you really believe this country wants to elect a Wall Street financier as a president of United States? Do you think that is the kind of experience we need?”

According to CNN’s latest delegate estimates, Romney has 519 delegates to Santorum’s 239. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has 138 delegates and Texas Rep. Ron Paul, the libertarian champion, has 69.

“I think it’s going to be very difficult as this goes on for anybody to get to that magic number” of 1,144 delegates, Santorum said.

Santorum and Gingrich, a fellow conservative, expect to prevent Romney from capturing a majority of delegates by the time the nominating contests end in June, leaving the choice up for grabs among the party’s mostly conservative delegates heading into the August nominating convention in Tampa, Florida.

According to CBS News, Santorum pointed out his credentials as the only “true conservative” in the race, and said Monday that Romney has no “core” beliefs.

“The convention will nominate a conservative. They will not nominate the establishment moderate candidate from Massachusetts,” he said, suggesting that the Republican nominating convention in Florida could be contested.

Santorum has already won primaries in neighboring Iowa, Minnesota and Missouri. Winning Illinois contest would continue his momentum in the region.

“And by and large, Gov. Romney can’t get above 35% of the vote anywhere,” Santorum said. “That shows you he hasn’t been able to close the deal in spite of enormous money advantages as you see on TV here in Illinois, and the robocalls and all the other establishment media being in his corner — he can’t seal the deal.”

Later this wekk the campaign returns to the Southwith Louisiana primary contest.

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