Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney won a key victory over former senator Rick Santorum in the Illinois Republican Primary Tuesday. The Midwest state was the latest contest for Republican presidential candidates in their campaign to challenge President Barack Obama in the November general election. people in the hometown of former President Ronald Reagan, a Republican icon, headed to the polls with the economy foremost on their minds.
Romney claimed a decisive victory over his Republican rival Rick Santorum in Illinois, the adopted home state of President Barack Obama.
“We deserve a president who believes in us, and I believe in America,” said Romney.
But another president’s legacy looms large over Republican voters in Illinois. In Dixon, Ronald Reagan’s hometown, the 40th president was also someone who believed in them.
“He casts a big shadow through here,” said pharmacist Everette Brooks and his wife Carla run a flower shop in Dixon. He fondly reflects on Reagan’s visits to his hometown.
“The spirit that Ronald Reagan gave us lives on, in a lot of hearts of most of us," he said. "The only ones that it does not seem to have been [in] is the people in Washington.”
Former U.S. senator Santorum tried to channel Ronald Reagan’s spirit in a speech to supporters on the eve of the election.
“Do not be those people that Reagan talked about, who would have to tell their children, and childrens’ children, what it was like to live in an America where men were free,” said Santorum.
It was not enough to help Santorum gain Brooks’ vote. He supported Romney, hoping his background in business can help solve some of the problems Brooks and his wife face.
“Our business does a lot of deliveries. The price of gasoline is really hurting, and Mr. Obama does not seem to care about that,” he said.
Carla Brooks says high gas prices are only the latest economic hurdle for their small business.
“You see the changes," she said. "People are not buying flowers as much as they used to. They are being more conservative with their money. We notice it.”
“Wall Street is on their way to recovery, but main street is not," said Ann Lewis is a board member at the Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home in Dixon. She attributes the slowdown at Brooks’ flower shop to the local unemployment rate.
“Right at the end of December when they had the last economic figures, we had 9.8-percent unemployment in Dixon, so jobs, jobs, jobs,” she said.
Many voters in Illinois say they backed Romney because he seems to have the best credentials for creating jobs and helping the economy.
But regardless of who the eventual nominee is, Carla Brooks is focused on the November general election.
“I just want us to beat Barack Obama,” she said.