Romney And Santorum Battle For Illinois

Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum launched a final campaign blitz across Illinois on Monday, the eve of their showdown in the Land of Lincoln primary that could cement Romney's front-running status or boost Santorum's conservative-backed surge in the Republican presidential race. Tuesday's Illinois primary offers 54 delegates and 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. The latest delegate estimates show Romney with 518 delegates to Santorum's 239. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has 139 delegates, and Texas Rep. Ron Paul, the libertarian champion, has 69. To secure the nomination, 1,144 delegates are needed. Despite his growing lead in the delegate count, Romney still faces questions about his ability to win support from the Republican conservative base and needs a victory in Illinois to answer doubters. An American Research Group poll released Monday indicated Romney had a solid lead over Santorum. According to the survey conducted over the weekend, 44% of likely Republican primary voters favored Romney compared to 30% for Santorum, 13% for Gingrich and 8% for Paul. The sampling error was plus or minus 4%. Santorum already has won contests in neighboring Minnesota, Iowa and Missouri, and capturing Illinois would continue his momentum in the region. The former Pennsylvania senator, who has emphasized his campaign's humble beginning against the better-financed and better-organized Romney, said over the weekend that winning Illinois would signal ultimate triumph.