Romney Woos Illinois Conservatives
By Glenn Kessler
GLEN ELLYN, Ill. -- DuPage County is about as solidly Republican a county as can be found in the United States. The Chicago suburb has produced reliable conservatives like Rep. Henry Hyde and former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, and is now the kind of place where Mitt Romney is making his last stand.
Speaking before a huge banner that declared "Washington is Broken," a jacket-less Romney told an enthusiastic crowd tightly packed in the arts center of the College of DuPage that the nomination battle had become a "battle for the heart and soul of Republican party." He asked the crowd, "Which way are we going to go? Are we going to take a sharp left turn in our part, to get as close as we can to Hillary Clinton?"
Few in the crowd of several hundred people appeared to be undecided; they accepted Romney's message that he was a true conservative. "I'm tired of reaching across the aisle when no one is reaching back," said Jim Strnad, a 63-year-old computer store owner.
There are few African Americans in DuPage, and census figures shows that the population is mostly white, with a heavy tilt toward Irish and German ancestry. Romney received his biggest cheers when he attacked Sen. John McCain's proposal to give citizenship to some illegal immigrants.
When Norma Green, a 78-year-old real estate agent, resplendent in a red sweater, said she "couldn't put her finger" on why she didn't like McCain, her son, Ken Wisdom, interjected, "Oh, that easy, Mom. It's amnesty, amnesty."
"Oh yes, amnesty," she said.
Wisdom, a 57-year-old union plumber, became emphatic: "It's not just Hispanics. It's Russians, Polish, Romanians, Pakistanis all coming. We are in a race to become a third world country. For a country not well liked in the world, people sure like to come here."
Speaking to reporters afterward, Romney said that, while he and McCain agreed on some issues, McCain's policies "are virtually indistinguishable from Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton on a number of issues."
From DuPage County, Romney planned to attend a Superbowl kick-off in the Maryland Heights suburb of St. Louis, Mo., before flying to Nashville, Tenn., to catch the end of the game.
On Monday, Romney plans to fly from Tennessee, where he's holding a rally, to Georgia, for rallies in Atlanta and Savannah. He then will fly to Charleston, W. V., Monday night. West Virginia will award its delegates at a convention, which Romney will address Tuesday before flying home to Massachusetts to vote in its primary and await the results.
Romney brushed off new polls showing him falling behind McCain, pointing to his victory Saturday in the Maine caucuses, and professed himself unconcerned about McCain's decision to spend the day campaigning in Massachusetts. He told reporters he would win in the state where he had been governor. "If he wants to go to Massachusetts, that's fine," Romney said. "I don't think it will help him a lot."
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