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Romney, Santorum Court Republican Voters Ahead of Illinois Primary

Kane Farabaugh

Republican presidential candidates are campaigning in the midwest state of Illinois ahead of the March 20th primary election. Republicans have been holding a series of contests to choose a nominee to face President Barack Obama, a Democrat, in the November presidential election. While the biggest city in Illinois - Chicago - accounts for a large bloc of voters, people in the rural and more conservative parts of the state could play a major role in determining who wins the Republican primary.  The economy and government spending are the biggest issues on the minds of voters as they head to the polls.

In his small shop on one of the main streets in downtown Pontiac, Illinois, Jon Sear is hard at work fixing computers.

He says he runs his business by following a basic principle.

“You can’t have [a] deficit.  You take in what you get, you spend what you have, other than that you don’t spend it.  It’s common sense,” Sear said.

Sear says that common sense is lacking in the state government of Illinois, where the estimated budget shortfall is over $11 billion.

As Republican presidential candidates campaign throughout the state, Illinois budget woes, and federal government spending are on the minds of many voters like Sear and his wife Amy.

“You worry because you don’t understand how spending more money will make things better when that seems like the total opposite.  You have to pay your bills as citizens, so you want the government to do the same thing I guess,” Sear said.

Polling shows former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney is ahead of former U.S. senator Rick Santorum in Illinois.  While Romney might easily win the support of Chicago’s large group of moderate Republican voters, Santorum is positioned to do well in places outside the city, like Pontiac, Illinois, population 12,000.

In previous contests, Santorum has emphasized social issues, such as his stand against legalized abortion, to help him win more conservative voters over Romney.

But Jon Sear says that’s not how it’s playing out in Illinois.

“They’re important, but I think the budgetary issues are more important,” Sear said.

“I don’t think we have time for social issues,” said Jim McConoughey, the CEO of the Heartland Partnership, an organization working to stimulate economic development in Central Illinois. “I think social issues are tie breakers for a lot of folks, but everyone wants to get their neighbors back to work and wants to get places for their kids to work.”

Which is the biggest reason Amy and Jon Sear are so concerned about the future.

“When you have a child, you start to worry about those things.  What will life be when they reach adulthood?  How bad could it be by then? Will they live in a country like we grew up in and be able to raise a family of their own?,” Amy Sear said.

Jon and Amy Sear think Rick Santorum has the best answers to those questions, and want him to fix the country’s economic problems so Sear can continue to fix the computers that keep his town, and his family, in business.  It remains to be seen whether enough Illinois Republicans agree or whether they think Romney is the better choice to fix the nation's economic woes.

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