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Posted at 02:35 PM ET, 03/19/2012

Coming off Puerto Rico win, Romney pushes hard in Illinois

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Charlie Parker’s diner here is famous for its pancakes – giant, 16-inch flapjacks that are so huge the waitresses serve them on aluminum pizza trays.

So when Mitt Romney walked into the joint Monday morning for a quick campaign stop just after sunrise, he couldn’t help but draw a comparison.

“These pancakes are about as large as my win in Puerto Rico last night,” Romney said, still reveling in his 83-percent blowout in the U.S. territory. “The margin is just about as good.”

Romney was hoping his margin Tuesday in the Illinois primary would be nearly as good. The former Massachusetts governor is leading in the polls here and, in a push to drive up turnout among his supporters, is crisscrossing the state Monday, with later appearances scheduled in Chicago and Peoria.

“I need you to go vote tomorrow,” Romney told supporters over breakfast here in Springfield. “I care about you. I care about this country. I love it very deeply…Together we’re going to get this job done, I’m going to get the nomination, we’re going to defeat Barack Obama and we’re going to take back this great country.”

In brief remarks at Charlie Parker’s diner, Romney voiced more optimism than he usually does in his stump speeches, saying he believes the economy is “finally coming back.”

“I believe the economy is coming back, by the way,” Romney said. “We’ll see what happens. It’s had ups and downs. I think it’s finally coming back. The economy always comes back after a recession, of course. There’s never been one that we didn’t recover from.”

“The problem,” he continued, “is this one has been deeper than it needed to be and a slower recovery than it should have been, by virtue of the policies of this president. Almost everything he’s done has made it harder for this economy to recover.”

Romney derided Obama as an “economic lightweight,” and is likely to attack the president’s stewardship of the economy in an address Monday afternoon at the University of Chicago, where Obama once taught as a law professor.

But first, Romney wanted a giant pancake.

“Can I get one of these on the way out?” he said, turning to the wait staff. “Not the super big one. I can’t fit that in the vehicle, alright. The car’s only a Chevy SUV.”

By  |  02:35 PM ET, 03/19/2012

Tags:  Mitt Rpmney, Illinois, Illinois primary' presidential election, Republican Part

 
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