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Romney, Santorum, Obama trade campaign digs in Illinois

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney holds 4-month-old Ryan Pratt while campaigning Friday at Pancakes Eggcetera in Rosemont, Ill. 

Associated Press

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney holds 4-month-old Ryan Pratt while campaigning Friday at Pancakes Eggcetera in Rosemont, Ill. 

CHICAGO — After two Deep South losses, Mitt Romney is intensifying his campaign efforts in the Midwest in hopes of regaining his front-runner's momentum when Illinois holds its Republican presidential primary Tuesday.

But the race for Illinois and its cache of 54 delegates is tighter than might have been expected, thanks to Rick Santorum's recent rise in opinion polls. And President Barack Obama, the Democrat they both hope to oust, is making his presence felt, too, in his adopted home state.

Romney and his allies are pouring money into the state, near Michigan where he grew up and his father was governor. Romney won the Michigan primary on Feb. 28.

Romney also is on the attack.

"We are not going to be successful in replacing an economic lightweight if we nominate an economic lightweight," the former Massachusetts governor said Friday during a stop in suburban Rosemont near Chicago. The criticism was a one-two punch against Obama and Santorum. "I am an economic heavyweight, and I know how to fix this economy," Romney declared.

Romney later stumped in Puerto Rico, where he's hoping to win the primary Sunday.

Santorum, just back from campaigning in Puerto Rico, sounded confident despite Romney's heavy organizational and advertising edge — and unconcerned about the criticism of his economic acumen.

Appearing at a Hispanic grocery store in Prospect Heights, Ill., he shot back at his rival. "I believe in a light touch of government where Gov. Romney believes in a very heavy touch," Santorum said. "So he is an economic government heavyweight."

Obama was fundraising and campaigning in Illinois, too, on Friday and taking his own shots at the Republicans — for negative campaigning.

Noting he was in "the land of Lincoln," Obama said the Republicans weren't exactly appealing to — in the Civil War president's words — "the better angels of our nature." He told his audience at a fundraiser in Chicago, "I'm thinking maybe some Lincoln will rub off on them while they're here."

Romney, Santorum, Obama trade campaign digs in Illinois 03/17/12 [Last modified: Saturday, March 17, 2012 12:29am]

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