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Michigan, Ohio and Illinois voters have had their chance. Now, it’s Wisconsin’s turn.

Wisconsin State Capitol

Voters in the dairy state go to the polls on Tuesday to cast ballots in the Republican primary. We’d love to hear how you voted, and what’s the most important issue on your minds.

After you vote, take our survey (or if you’ve already voted early, let us know now). It will help us understand whether different topics are of importance to people in different parts of the Great Lakes.

Illinoisans are casting their votes today in the state’s Republican primary. If polls are correct, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is heading for his first blow out victory in a Midwestern state. 

He had unexpectedly close contests with former Sen. Rick Santorum in Michigan and Ohio, which made the Illinois primary more important than most political watchers thought it would be.

Illinois has 54 delegates up for grabs, fewer than Ohio, but more than Michigan. Romney has a strong organization in the state, while Santorum failed to file full slates of delegate candidates in four Congressional districts. If he were to upset Romney, he could win no more than 44 delegates, the Chicago Tribune said. 

During Monday’s campaigning, Santorum and Romney exchanged barbs about the economy. Santorum, who made appearances in northwest Illinois, said he “didn’t care about the unemployment rate” and said the race was about smaller government, individual and social freedom.

At his own campaign stop in Peoria, Romney said, “I do care about the unemployment rate. It does bother me. I want to get people back to work.”

Tuesday’s primary also will see some contested Congressional races. Check our partner station WBEZ for full election results on the air and on line.

Our friends at PBS NewsHour had this analysis of the Illinois race. Here are anchor Judy Woodruff and political editor Christina Bellantoni.

Republican presidential candidates are making their final push in Illinois before tomorrow’s primary. They’ve flooded the airwaves with advertisements. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney alone has spent nearly $4 million in the state, according to the Chicago Tribune.

But Illinois firefighters have countered with their own anti-Romney ad, paid for by their union, the International Association of Firefighters.

The ad focuses in part on SAFER, a government program that provided $10.2 million in grants to Illinois communities last year to hire or retrain firefighters.

The IAFF endorsed Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election, and ran commercials in that campaign criticizing Republican nominee John McCain.

The firefighters’ effort may not make much difference. Romney appears to have a wide lead over former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum in Illinois.  Public Policy Polling says Romney is ahead by 45 percent to 30 percent for Santorum, with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich pulling in 12 percent and Texas congressman Ron Paul receiving support from 10 percent of likely voters.

Take a look at the ad and tell us what you think. And tomorrow, be sure to check our partner station WBEZ in Chicago for extensive coverage of the Illinois primary.

Next Tuesday is the illinois Republican primary. But today, Illinois is the center of the political universe (not that it doesn’t always think it is).

Two Republican presidential candidates and President Obama are all in the state today, looking for votes, and in the case of the president, money.

Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum makes two stops in Arlington Heights today, with three downstate on Saturday.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney hit a Rosemont restaurant Friday morning, with more stops planned ahead of Tuesday’s election.

Obama, meanwhile, spoke to a fundraising luncheon in Chicago before heading to Atlanta.

Not to be outdone, Newt Gingrich was in Illinois on Thursday. His performance in the state could determine whether the GOP race narrows to Romney and Santorum, or whether it remains a three-way contest.

 

Gassed up Ohio will get a new $900 million natural gas processing plant, as the state’s boom in shale-gas drilling continues.

You’re next, Illinois Mitt Romney’s poor showing in Alabama and Missisippi seems to have heightened the importance of next week’s primary in Illinois. The Chicago Tribune reports the Romney campaign just bought another $1.35 million in ads in the Chicago market.

Politics behind consent Yesterday was a big day in the city of Detroit, as Michigan governor Rick Snyder released a proposed consent agreement to handle the city’s budget crisis. Partner station Michigan Radio takes a look at the politics behind the proposal.

Mining a new strategy Even though a controversial piece of legislation to allow mining in northern Wisconsin failed to get enough votes, and the company that wanted the mine has pulled out, some state Republicans are still fighting for the cause.

Ohio gets the bronze The Labor Department reports that Ohio had the third-largest increase in jobs in January. Only New York and Texas saw more jobs created in the first month of the year.

Camera-ready Partner station WBEZ looks into Chicago’s volatile, but growing film industry.


Republican candidates are wrapping up a busy weekend of campaigning before Michigan’s primary on Tuesday. But Rick Santorum is going where few have ventured — Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Santorum was set to hold a campaign rally at noon ET in Marquette, marking a rare visit by a candidate above the Mackinac Bridge.

The vast majority of candidate visits have been to southeast and western Michigan — not surprising, since that’s where the vast majority of Republican voters are located.

But, the U.P. has a Republican congressman, Dan Benishak. He took the seat vacated by veteran Democrat Bart Stupak in 2010. (You might remember Stupak for backing President Obama’s health care program.)

Santorum’s schedule also includes a stop in Traverse City, as well as a rally in Davison, outside Flint.

Weekend campaigners also include Ron Paul, who spent his first day campaigning in Michigan on Saturday. Paul is set to wrap up his brief sweep on Monday, with a rally at Michigan State University in East Lansing.

Mitt Romney, who holds a narrow lead in polls going into Tuesday’s election, has been spending a lot of time on talk radio in Michigan.

Romney has gotten attention this weekend for comments he made about his wife’s “couple of Cadillacs” during his speech to the Economic Club of Detroit on Friday. He also is touching the nerves of many UAW members, who protested at the speech.


It snowed overnight in Michigan, providing an icy backdrop as Republican presidential candidates kicked off the final weekend of campaigning before Tuesday’s primary.

Things got off to a quick start. United Auto Workers members gathered on a downtown Detroit parking garage rooftop Friday morning, staging a protest in advance of Mitt Romney’s speech to the Economic Club of Detroit.

Our friends at WXYZ-TV are broadcasting Romney’s speech live. The lunch is scheduled to begin at noon ET.

Romney is speaking at Ford Field, normally home to the Detroit Lions, as polls show he’s taken a slight lead over Pennsylvania’s former U.S. senator, Rick Santorum.

The Five Thirty Eight blog says Romney now has a 67 percent chance of beating Santorum on Tuesday. Its calculations show Romney taking 41.1 percent of the vote, with Santorum getting 36.4 percent. The next closest candidate is Ron Paul with 11.9 percent, followed by Newt Gingrich with 9.3 percent.

Neither Paul nor Gingrich has campaigned much in Michigan, where Romney and Santorum have blanketed the airwaves with ads.

But Paul is swinging through the state this weekend, when the three leaders have all added campaign appearances.

  • Along with his Econ Club speech, Romney is set to be in Lansing on Saturday for an Ingham County Republican breakfast and speak to the Michigan Prosperity Forum in Troy.
  • Santorum hits a fish fry on Friday in Walled Lake, and a rally at a Knights of Columbus hall in Lincoln Park. On Saturday, he speaks to a Tea Party rally in St. Clair Shores, and speaks to the prosperity forum.
  • Paul is headed for Michigan, where he has events planned in Hudsonville and Mount Pleasant and a final event on Monday East Lansing.

Stay with Changing Gears through the weekend for final primary coverage.


About midway through Wednesday night’s Republican presidential debate in Mesa, Arizona, moderator John King of CNN turned to a topic that’s front and center in the Michigan primary: the auto bailout.

It momentarily turned into a free for all between Michigan’s native son, Mitt Romney, and Pennsylvania’s former U.S. senator, Rick Santorum, over what kind of help the federal government should have given the auto companies. You can read and see CNN’s coverage here.

On Thursday, President Barack Obama’s campaign jumped into the fray with a new television ad that began airing in Michigan, which holds its primary next Tuesday.

The ad, called Made in America, contends Republicans turned their back on the industry in 2008 and 2009, when the automakers went to Washington for federal assistance.

And, the campaign has a point. None of the Republican candidates supported the direct bailout of General Motors and Ford. And, Republicans in the Senate opposed legislation that would have provided Congressional assistance.

But Romney was the most vocal at the time, writing a now-famous op-ed in the New York Times in 2008 entitled, “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt,” and his answers have received the most scrutiny.

The new Obama campaign ad references that op-ed, and declares, “Now, a new, restructured industry is back because of the grit and sacrifice of Michigan workers.” It concludes: “Don’t bet against the American worker.”

As he explained Wednesday night, he felt the car companies should have gone through a “managed bankruptcy” or a more-conventional bankruptcy that would have been financed by banks, not the Treasury Department.

Banks, however, received their own bailout, and were not inclined to lend to the car companies. Plus, conventional bankruptcies could have taken years, not the quick trips that GM and Chrysler experienced.

United Auto Workers members are preparing to demonstrate on Friday, when Romney makes his highest-profile appearance ahead of the primary, a speech to the Economic Club of Detroit at Ford Field.

I talked about the Michigan race with Judy Woodruff of PBS NewsHour on Wednesday night. You can watch our interview here.