On the eve of the big Illinois primary, with 54 committed delegates on the line – plus another 15 at-large delegates scheduled to attend the Republican National Convention – a set of recent polls show Mitt Romney opening up a sizable lead over Rick Santorum.
The most recent survey, from Public Policy Polling, puts Romney up 15 points, good enough for a “blowout victory in Illinois on Tuesday.” While other polls had shown Santorum doing well in rural Illinois, the PPP poll actually shows Romney moving slightly ahead in those areas, leading 38-36. Santorum is still ahead with Tea Party and evangelical voters, but not by the lopsided margins he needs for an overall win.
Newt Gingrich is only pulling 12 percent in this poll, so even if he suddenly dropped out and threw the vast majority of his supporters to Santorum, it wouldn’t be enough to close the gap. PPP believes Gingrich would only give a net of four points to Santorum by departing the race.
The PPP poll was taken over the past weekend. A Rasmussen survey taken from a couple of days earlier put Romney ahead by only 9 points, with 41 percent to Santorum’s 32 percent. That’s still well outside the margin of error, while polls only a week or two older showed a much closer margin-of-error lead for Romney in Illinois. It looks like there has been a pronounced and continuing shift in Romney’s favor.