Rick’s Car Breaks Down in a Bad Neighborhood

Unless PPP’s latest survey of the state is uncharacteristically way off, Rick Santorum is cruisin’ for a real bruisin’ in tomorrow’s Illinois primary. It shows Romney up 45-30, with Santorum running out of time and not having the money to compete in the state’s expensive media markets. But more than anything else, Illinois is just a bad state for Rick, despite its superficial reputation as a blue-collar midwestern jurisdiction near places (Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Michigan and Ohio) where Santorum has run well.

As PPP shows, IL is a state where “somewhat conservative” voters outnumber “very conservative” voters; evangelicals are only 36% of the likely voters; and rural voters are outnumbered by more than two-to-one. Worse yet for Rick, it’s a place where fully a fourth of Republican voters think Obama’s a Christian and as many say he was born in the USA as say he wasn’t; where nearly half believe in evolution and three-fourths think race-mixin’ should be legal.

And as PPP’s analysis indicates, even in the demographic categories where he does well, Santorum’s support is slipping from previous performances. When you combine these two factors, it can be devastating. In OH, for example, evangelicals made up 47% of the primary electorate and Rick won them by 18 points. PPP shows them at 36% in IL, and Santorum leads only by 10.

I haven’t seen any consolidated analysis of spending in IL, but it looks like Team Santorum is getting massively outspent (something on the order of 10-1) by Team Romney.

Thanks to the decision of MO Republicans not to hold a straw poll at its caucuses on Saturday (along with some apparent Romney-Paul tactical alliances on the ground), Santorum will have to wait until next Saturday’s primary in Louisiana for any sort of boost. He’s not, it appears, close enough in IL to get much traction from beating expectations and keeping the results in suspense until most of the news media stories have already been filed. Indeed, as a big fat Politico piece today filled with endless complaining about Romney’s campaign from Illinois pols indicates, Rick may actually be on the wrong side of the expectations game this time around.

Santorum and his backers can only hope Mitt pulls off one of his patented pre-primary gaffes in IL–maybe simultaneously disrespecting the Cubs and the White Sox, or thanking donors for protecting his kids’ trust funds, or comparing his hair to Blago’s or something. Otherwise, Rick just needs to take his bad beating and move on, hoping the MSM doesn’t suddenly decide it’s all over.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.