Suburbs prime battleground in Illinois' GOP primary

  • Ted Cruz supporters from left, Andrea Krug of Wheaton and Kirsten Morgan of Palatine, wait to see Ted Cruz Monday at Abbington Banquets in Glen Ellyn.

    Ted Cruz supporters from left, Andrea Krug of Wheaton and Kirsten Morgan of Palatine, wait to see Ted Cruz Monday at Abbington Banquets in Glen Ellyn. Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Ted Cruz supporters from left, Patricia Cole of Aurora, Barbara Norton and Herb Norton of Wheaton, wait to see Ted Cruz Monday at Abbington Banquets in Glen Ellyn.

    Ted Cruz supporters from left, Patricia Cole of Aurora, Barbara Norton and Herb Norton of Wheaton, wait to see Ted Cruz Monday at Abbington Banquets in Glen Ellyn. Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Ted Cruz appears at Abbington Banquets Monday in Glen Ellyn.

    Ted Cruz appears at Abbington Banquets Monday in Glen Ellyn. Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Ted Cruz appears at Abbington Banquets Monday in Glen Ellyn.

    Ted Cruz appears at Abbington Banquets Monday in Glen Ellyn. Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 3/14/2016 9:33 PM

With 69 delegates to be awarded from Illinois, voters on Tuesday will play a role in determining whether GOP front-runner Donald Trump broadens his lead toward an eventual Republican nomination or whether one of his three opponents can begin to close the gap.

"Illinois is used to being neglected," Texas Sen. Ted Cruz told a crowd in Glen Ellyn on Monday, referencing past presidential primaries when candidates were focused primarily on other states. But in this year's unpredictable election cycle, he said, the state "has a big platform. ... The men and women of Illinois get their voice on a national stage."

 

While many eyes are on Ohio and Florida, which also have primaries Tuesday and where home-state candidates John Kasich and Marco Rubio concentrated on Monday, Cruz seized the chance to make an eleventh-hour play for votes and some of Illinois' delegates.

Trump, who campaigned Monday in Tampa with former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, has 458 of the 1,237 delegates needed to win the nomination. The other three candidates have a combined 564 delegates, with Cruz possessing 370 of those.

With nearly 6.9 million of Illinois' 12.8 million residents living in suburban Cook and the collar counties, the suburbs, by default, have become the prime battleground.

In Illinois, voters Tuesday will directly elect 54 Republican delegates -- three from each congressional district. Another 15 delegates are awarded to the statewide winner.

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Cruz made two suburban stops in recent days to urge Republicans who might have started out supporting other candidates in the crowded primary field to coalesce behind him.

Playing off Friday's canceled Trump rally in Chicago, Cruz said it would be a "disaster" should Trump be the nominee.

"If Donald Trump is the nominee, Hillary wins," Cruz told the hundreds who turned out hear him speak at the Abbington Banquets.

Cruz, calling himself a "true conservative," pledged to protect "religious liberty," ensure a conservative-leaning Supreme Court and abolish the Internal Revenue Service if elected.

Kasich made appearances in Lisle and Palatine last week and said he has strong support in suburban Cook and DuPage counties.

Rubio hasn't made any recent appearances in Illinois, instead spending his time and effort trying to secure a win in his home state of Florida.

Even the most seasoned of analysts aren't sure how things will break on Election Day. Republican U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam of Wheaton, who was at Cruz events Friday and Monday, said it's anybody's guess how traditionally Republican DuPage County will split among primary candidates.

"I was going door to door yesterday and heard over and over again from constituents, 'I don't know how I'm going to vote (for president),'" said Roskam, who is not endorsing a candidate. "I don't know the answer, and I don't think anybody really knows the answer."

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