Reporting from East Peoria, Ill. — When it comes to Illinois politics, nothing is simple. As voters hit the polls Tuesday in the state’s primary, for instance, they have to choose not only which candidate they support for their party’s presidential nominee, but also have to vote for the delegates that will support that candidate at the GOP convention.
“Our way of voting here is pretty different,” said Chuck Williams, 78, who was heading to the polls in East Peoria on a warm morning that felt like summer. Another way it’s different: Williams said when he returned home after being out yesterday, he had 14 messages on his answering machine. All but one were various robocalls related to the election.
Williams voted for Mitt Romney, saying the former Massachusetts governor would do the best job fixing the economy.
“He’s a good businessman. He got things accomplished. Why would I vote for a guy who can’t even carry his home state?” Williams said, referring to Rick Santorum’s loss of his Pennsylvania's senatorial seat in 2006.
Both Romney and Santorum visited this area 160 miles southwest of Chicago in campaign stops Monday. Romney spoke to students at Bradley University in Peoria, Santorum held an evening event at a pizza restaurant in East Peoria, over the river and in another, more conservative county. To Williams, the difference between Romney and Santorum was evident even in their choices of local venues – a college versus a pizza parlor.
But his friends Mike and Susan Taylor, who joked with Williams on their way into the polling location in the Fon du Lac Park Administration Building, said they were voting for Santorum.
“He’s an honest man, and he seems to be a good Christian man,” said Susan Taylor, 60, who said the economy and the Constitution were her top two issues when deciding who to support.
“A goodly portion of our rights are slipping away,” Mike Taylor said. Santorum has a habit of pulling a Constitution out of his pocket when speaking to crowds, which Taylor likes.
When asked if they knew that they had to vote for delegates as well as the candidates, the Taylors shrugged.
“I don’t understand a lot of that stuff,” Mike Taylor said. “But Romney sure seems to be popular.”
Santorum had fewer alternate delegates on the ballot than Romney did, said Sue Roper, 55, who also supported the former Pennsylvania senator. When told that Santorum had delegates on the ballot in only 44 out of 54 counties, Roper rolled her eyes.
“Oh, great,” she said. She still holds out hope for a Santorum upset, an outcome that polls indicate is not likely. “He’s done it in several other states,” she said. “Why not here?”