While he has yet to win a primary and his only caucus win was in the Virgin Islands -- where Mitt Romney got more delegates -- U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas continues his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, focusing on the Illinois primary on Tuesday as he looks to continue his campaign all the way to the Republicans' convention in Tampa in August.
While Democrat incumbent President Barack Obama is an overwhelming favorite to carry his home state in November, Illinois will have a large role in Tampa -- and 69 delegates to boot.
Based on results from the 2008 primary and two polls released on Friday, Illinois is not the most friendly of territory for Paul, who had strong showings earlier in the contest -- including third place in the Iowa caucus and second in the New Hampshire primary back in January. In 2008, Paul placed a distant fourth in Illinois -- which held its primary on Super Tuesday -- taking more than 5 percent of the vote.
Two polls unveiled on Friday show that Paul continues to trail in Illinois. A poll of likely Republican primary voters released by Rasmussen Reports on Friday finds Mitt Romney with a solid lead in the Land of Lincoln. Romney takes 41 percent in the poll, followed by Rick Santorum with 32 percent, Newt Gingrich with 14 percent and Paul lagging with 7 percent. The poll of 750 likely Illinois Republican primary voters was taken March 15 and had a margin of error of +/- 4 percent.
Another poll unveiled on Friday -- this one from We Ask America on behalf of Fox News Chicago -- also shows Paul in single digits in Illinois. Romney leads this poll of likely primary voters with 37 percent, followed by Santorum with 31 percent, Gingrich with 14 percent and Paul with 8 percent. Ten percent remain undecided. The poll of 1,933 likely Illinois Republican primary voters was taken March 14 and had a margin of error of +/- 2.2 percent.
Still, Paul has shown signs of momentum in the Land of Lincoln this week. At a campaign event at the University of Illinois in Champaign on Wednesday night, organizers planned for 1,200 people. Instead, the event brought in more than 4,600 supporters who came out to listen to the maverick Texas congressman.
Paul is also counting on the support of U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson, a veteran of Republican politics in Illinois. Johnson is one of a handful of congressmen -- others include U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, R-Miss., and U.S. Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C. -- who are backing Pauls presidential bid. The congressmans son -- U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. -- is also on board.
Johnson, who represents parts of 22 counties spanning across eastern Illinois, was first elected to Congress in the 2000 election cycle and was first elected to the Illinois Legislature back in 1976.
I am honored to call Ron Paul my colleague and most importantly my friend. I have always admired Representative Paul but my respect for this great mans leadership grows more all the time. He is one of the most principled men I have ever met, said Johnson when he endorsed Paul earlier this week. Whether it be advocating for troop withdrawal, reducing the reach of our government or reforming the tax code and our health care system, Ron Paul has been unwavering and an ideological champion for all of us.
While Paul continued to focus on Illinois on Friday with two morning interviews on Chicago radio, his campaign is also hitting Missouri this week. Paul held a rally in Columbia on Thursday and made media appearances in the Show Me State on Friday.
Paul placed a distant third when Missouri held a nonbinding primary back on Feb. 7 which Santorum won in a landslide. However, while there were almost 252,000 Missouri Republicans voting in that primary, not a single delegate was allocated. Santorum won handily with 55 percent followed by Romney with 25 percent and Paul took a distant third with 12 percent, while 4 percent were uncommitted. Three candidates who had already pulled out of the race by that time -- U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, businessman Herman Cain and Texas Gov. Rick Perry -- all took 1 percent in Missouri.
Missouri holds county caucuses on Saturday -- as a lead-up to conventions at the congressional level in April and a state convention in June -- with 52 delegates at stake.
Reach Kevin Derby at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (850) 727-0859.