Candidates take aim at Obama in final push in Illinois

ROCKFORD, Ill. — Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum were crisscrossing Illinois on Monday in a final push for votes before today's presidential primary election.

Romney gave a speech at the University of Chicago in which he acknowledged there is an economic recovery, but blames President Barack Obama for it taking so long.

"Freedom is becoming the victim of unbounded government appetite — and so is economic growth, job growth, and wage growth. As government takes more and more, there is less and less incentive to take risk, to invest, to innovate, and to hire.

"The proof is in this weak recovery. This administration thinks our economy is struggling because the stimulus was too small. The truth is we're struggling because our government is too big," Romney said.

In Rockford, Santorum tried to make inroads by pushing back on Romney's assertion that the former Pennsylvania senator was an economic lightweight "because I'm not a Wall Street financier like (Romney) was."

"Do you think this country wants to elect a Wall Street financier?" Santorum asked, to shouts of "no" from the crowd of more than 200 at the Venetian Club.

Romney hit a Springfield diner Monday morning to continue attacking Obama's energy policy, saying it has led to increasing gas prices.

He told the crowd of just under 100, with about another 100 people stuck outside, that he would like to get rid of Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, calling them "the gas hike trio."

Today's Illinois contest once again finds Romney campaigning heavily in a state that had once been thought of as simply another cog toward his inevitable march to the GOP nomination.

Instead, concerns over lackluster voter turnout and intensity of support for the former Massachusetts governor in the suburbs has made Illinois a question mark as Santorum has worked to energize tea party and religious conservatives throughout the state, especially outside the Chicago area.

Candidates take aim at Obama in final push in Illinois 03/19/12 [Last modified: Monday, March 19, 2012 10:32pm]

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