Monday, March 19, 2012

Illinois Primary Tomorrow

The Illinois Primary will be held on Tuesday. As we have mentioned before, Illinois is a crucial state in the battle between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. Romney has been campaigning in "targets of opportunity" in the Midwest, such as Michigan and Ohio. Santorum is in the position of defending his home turf; he needs to sweep both the South and Midwest if he is to defeat Romney. Previously, Romney won by narrow margins in Michigan and Ohio. While in Michigan he had the benefit of personal ties to the state, he was at a disadvantage in Ohio--and beat Santorum anyway. Illinois, in its natural state, is considered somewhere between the two: Not as pro-Santorum as Ohio, but not as level a playing field as Michigan. Since Michigan, however, the tide has shifted against Santorum, making things easier for Romney. Despite being in the Midwest, Romney is favored to win Illinois, based on the polls:

Illinois Primary
03/18 PPP (D) -- Romney 45, Santorum 30, Gingrich 13, Paul 10
03/18 ARG -- Romney 44, Santorum 30, Gingrich 13, Paul 8
03/15 Rasmussen -- Romney 41, Santorum 32, Gingrich 14, Paul 7
03/14 WeAskAmerica -- Romney 37, Santorum 31, Gingrich 14, Paul 8
03/14 Fox Chicago -- Romney 37, Santorum 31, Gingrich 14, Paul 8

Judging by the polls, Romney already had the edge several days ago and is also getting late momentum on top of that. Understanding the importance of Illinois, Romney has done extra campaigning there--while Santorum wasted time in Puerto Rico. However, with Newt Gingrich polling at about 14%, there's still room for his numbers to shift toward Santorum. As in the past, Santorum may do a bit better than expected due to this strategic shift of the Anti-Romney vote. In this case, Romney's margin in the polling suggests he can safely assume a win in Illinois, regardless of that shift.

How can Santorum justify the loss of another state in the Midwest? He would likely point to the fact that Illinois is a left-leaning state that votes Democratic in presidential elections. It's true, but it shouldn't be too much comfort for Santorum going forward: The Midwestern states voting in April--both "must-win" states for Santorum--are Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, both of which have also been voting Democratic in recent presidential elections. Pennsylvania is Santorum's home state, so he shouldn't lose there, but losing Wisconsin would be very damaging.