Chicago Sun-Times
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Romney, Santorum Illinois showdown

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By Dave McKinney, Lynn Sweet and Abdon M. Pallasch

CHICAGO--The day before the Illinois primary, Mitt Romney visited President Barack Obama's neighborhood Monday to slam the president's economic policies, while Rick Santorum ventured to Ronald Reagan's birthplace to put a fine point on his brand of conservatism.

The political symbolism, tailored to Illinois Republicans, developed as the rivals stumped around the state Monday.

The Romney team is hoping a solid showing in Illinois -- in the popular vote and the more important delegate races -- will vastly devalue any Santorum threat of a brokered or contested presidential nominating convention in Tampa.

Romney stayed personally above the fray, never mentioning Santorum, as he delivered a critical economic speech at the University of Chicago -- blocks from Obama's own backyard at 50th and Greenwood and across the The Midway from where the president taught at the Law School.

Santorum, meanwhile was blistered across Illinois by the Romney forces in two ads -- one paid for by the campaign and another by the SuperPac backing Romney, Restore Our Future.

The former Pennsylvania senator kept his focus on developing the same kind of "insurgent campaign" that ushered Reagan into power in 1980, after Reagan took on and lost to the GOP establishment in a 1976 presidential bid.

Santorum hit three Downstate stops, but it was in Dixon -- in northwest Illinois, where Reagan was born -- that he invoked the former president's memory. The stop was part of an effort to rev up the conservatives outside of the Chicago metro area who Santorum needs if he is to have a chance at an Election Day stunner over Romney.

"I need you to rise up and speak loudly from the place of freedom here in Dixon, Ill.," Santorum told about 500 evangelicals, Roman Catholics and Tea Party enthusiasts at his rally."Let the voice of Reagan be heard across this land."

Over at the U. of C., Romney invoked the name of the late legendary conservative economist Milton Friedman, who long taught at the Hyde Park school.

Friedman, Romney said, "knew what President Obama still has not learned, even after three years and hundreds of billions of dollars in spending: The government does not create prosperity; free markets and free people do."

Obama in recent speeches has talked about the potential of the U.S. even as the nation is recovering from the economic downturn. Romney joined Obama in talking about America┬╣s business success stories -- with a different vision of how to get there.

The former Massachusetts governor said, "We once built the interstate highway system and the Hoover Dam. Today, we can't even build a pipeline," a reference to the U.S/Canadian project the Obama administration has stalled.

"A regulator would have shut down the Wright Brothers for their 'dust pollution,' Romney said, getting a chuckle. "And the government would have banned Thomas Edison's light bulb. Oh yeah, Obama's regulators actually did just that," he said to applause -- though the origins to the light bulb ban Romney mentioned were in the Bush -- not Obama White House.

Romney also stumped in Peoria and Springfield and on Tuesday hits Chicago and Wheaton for fund-raisers, spending election night in Schaumburg while Santorum will be in Pennsylvania.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on March 20, 2012 1:02 AM.

President Obama official schedule and guidance, March 20, 2012. St. Patrick's Day party was the previous entry in this blog.

Robert DeNiro, Whoopi Goldberg, Star Jones at Michelle Obama fund-raiser. POOL REPORT is the next entry in this blog.

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