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updated: 1/4/2012 6:38 PM

Romney, Santorum gear up for Illinois after Iowa

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  • Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, speaks at his caucus night rally in Des Moines, Iowa, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2012.

      Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, speaks at his caucus night rally in Des Moines, Iowa, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2012.
    Associated Press

 
By Kerry Lester
Politics and Projects Writer
klester@dailyherald.com

Buoyed by a close second-place finish in Iowa, supporters of former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum worked to ramp up his presence in Illinois, while former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's campaign continued to bolster the support structure it has had in place for months.

Key to Santorum's newly energized Illinois campaign are former state reps. Penny Pullen of Arlington Heights and Al Salvi of Wauconda -- a classmate of Santorum's when both attended Carmel Catholic High School in Mundelein in the 1970s.

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Romney, the narrow victor of Tuesday's Iowa caucus and the only Republican candidate to file a full slate of convention delegates so far in Illinois, did not pick up any more endorsements from Illinois Republicans on Wednesday.

A number of top suburban Republicans are continuing to keep mum on their presidential picks, biding their time until next week's New Hampshire primary and beyond.

House GOP leader Tom Cross, of Oswego, said Wednesday he was not yet ready to endorse a candidate, and did not elaborate on a timetable.

Eighth District Congressman Joe Walsh, of McHenry, said despite the news Wednesday that fellow Tea Partyer Michelle Bachmann of Minnesota was abandoning her presidential bid, he was not yet ready to make any endorsement.

House Chief Deputy Whip Peter Roskam, of Wheaton, "still has not endorsed," per his spokesman, Dan Conston.

For some, there's a specific reason behind waiting.

"Normally, by now, I have always been on someone's bandwagon," State Sen. Kirk Dillard, of Hinsdale, said.

While he said he hopes Texas Gov. Rick Perry perseveres, Dillard said before endorsing he'll "wait and see what happens" in a number of primaries, including Ohio, Florida and California, "places that are diverse and really the heart of America," unlike Iowa, which he described as "a great place, but really homogeneous."

Others, Illinois GOP Chair Pat Brady, of St. Charles said, are too busy focusing on their own races to worry about making an endorsement more than 10 weeks before Illinois' March 20 primary.

Yet, Romney has gained significant support over recent months.

Thirteenth District Congresswoman Judy Biggert of Hinsdale backed Romney in October. Tenth District Congressman Robert Dold made his announcement in November. Sen. Mark Kirk did it in December, at a well-publicized news conference in downtown Chicago, accompanied by state Treasurer Dan Rutherford, who is chair of Romney's campaign in Illinois.

Other campaigns, Brady said, "are not even close. Rutherford's been working at this for years. They're way ahead. Way ahead. With everything you need to win."

In addition to organization, Romney has a hefty war chest.

Of Romney's $32.2 million raised nationally, $679,714 of it came from Illinois, according to campaign finance data through the end of September. Santorum had raised $1.3 million nationally.

He faces both organizational and money hurdles, struggling to afford basic aspects of campaigning, including flights and travel costs. Santorum's Illinois campaign -- which launched its website on Christmas Eve -- is working furiously to make up for lost time.

Former Batavia resident Jon Zahm, who became familiar with Santorum while a student at Villanova University in Pennsylvania, is the Illinois campaign's political director and its only paid staff member. Salvi on Wednesday was using Facebook to help recruit petition signatures for Santorum delegates.

Zahm said he plans to drive to Springfield Thursday evening and file petitions Friday afternoon at the State Board of Elections.

"It's not going to be easy because Santorum is really limited in terms of money," Salvi said of the upcoming race.

In addition, he said, he faces a challenge of "appealing to the Chicago metropolitan area in order to win Illinois."

Yet, at the same time, he called Santorum "a great personality who's very good one on one. A great debater."

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