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Romney and Santorum tangle over who is “economic heavyweight”

Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney holds town hall meeting Sullivan Community Center Gymnasium VernHills Sunday March 18 2012. | TOM

Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney holds a town hall meeting in the Sullivan Community Center Gymnasium in Vernon Hills Sunday March 18, 2012. | TOM CRUZE~Sun-Times

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Updated: April 20, 2012 8:17AM



Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum tangled over who was the “economic heavyweight” on Sunday as they blitz Illinois Monday, the day before the primary here.

Romney won the primary in Puerto Rico on Sunday, and, with his wife, Ann, thanked the commonwealth at the top of a packed town hall at the Sullivan Community Center in northwest suburban Vernon Hills, arriving after stops in Moline and Rockford.

Santorum spent the day in Louisiana, sending to Chicago as surrogates The Duggar family, the reality TV stars. Perhaps foreshadowing his expectations for the Illinois primary, Santorum sent out a tweet he will be in Gettysburg, Pa., Tuesday night.

The Romney campaign will headquarter in suburban Schaumburg for the primary returns in a state where — if Romney has a commanding win in delegates and in the popular vote — he can tamp down talk of a brokered or contested GOP nominating convention at Tampa.

On Monday, Romney delivers an economic speech at the University of Chicago and campaigns in Springfield while Santorum will focus on Downstate stops.

Romney and Santorum both appeared on Sunday talk shows. Romney repeated what he said in Rosemont on Friday — and in a commercial the campaign is running in Illinois — that both President Barack Obama and Santorum were “economic lightweights.”

He also ramped up his attack on Obama over rising gas prices — picking up on an issue Newt Gingrich has made the centerpiece of his bid. Gingrich is not a factor in the Illinois primary.

On the stump and on Fox News, Romney called on Obama to fire his Energy and Interior secretaries and the Environmental Protection Agency administrator.

Santorum and David Axelrod, Obama’s chief strategist, both took on Romney over the “economic lightweight” taunt.

On ABC’s “This Week,” Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, said of the former Massaschusetts governor, “If Mitt Romney’s an economic heavyweight, we’re in trouble.”

Axelrod on CBS’ “Face the Nation said of Romney, “If he thinks he’s an economic heavyweight, he must be looking in a funhouse mirror, because that is not the record of an economic heavyweight.”

In Vernon Hills, Romney sidestepped a question of how he would make good on his vow to, if president, repeal Obama’s health-care law if Democrats continued to control the Senate.

Romney offered no clues to how he would deal with the political reality Obama is confronted with — a divided Congress. Instead, he urged the election of Republicans to Congress.

At the Vernon Hills event, Romney said his “thoughts and prayers” were with Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) who is recovering from a stroke, with the mention coming to an audience who knew Kirk well from when he represented the area as a House member.

Santorum starts Tuesday with a delegate deficit, filing for only 44 of 54 slots for elected delegates. On CNN, Santorum was asked how he could tout his record as a manager if he could not run a full slate in Illinois. The campaigns of Romney, Gingrich and Ron Paul all are running full slates.

“We didn’t have any of the resources that any of these other candidates had,” Santorum said, though Gingrich and Paul were running shoestring campaigns in Illinois at the time.

Illinois is Obama’s home state and Romney was urged at the Vernon Hills town hall by one man not to concede it to Obama if he wins the nomination. Another man fine-tuned the request, asking him not to concede Chicago.

Said Romney, “I am sure Rahm Emanuel will be there helping me.”



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