Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum in tight race in Illinois’s primary, poll shows

There’s no relief in sight for Mitt Romney, with a new poll showing a tight race in the Illinois primary later this month.

The new Chicago Tribune/WGN-TV poll shows Romney at 35 percent in the March 20 primary, but Rick Santorum is within the margin of error at 31 percent. Newt Gingrich follows in third place at 12 percent, while Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) is at 7 percent.

The poll shows nearly half of voters say they could still change their mind, though, so there is plenty of room for movement.

Romney continues to struggle in more rural areas and among the most conservative voters. He trails by six points outside the Chicago area and by 14 points among likely voters who describe themselves as “very conservative.”

Illinois is the next major prize this month after Tuesday’s primaries in Alabama and Mississippi. With 69 delegates at stake, only Georgia has awarded more to this point.

Illinois, with its blue lean and large metropolitan area, was supposed to be among the easier states left in March for Romney, but as in the two other Rust Belt states, Michigan and Ohio, it looks like he’ll have to earn a victory.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.

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