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Illinois is a must-win state for Romney

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. -- Mitt Romney needs to win the Illinois Republican presidential primary Tuesday.

Sure, he's way ahead in delegates to the Republican National Convention. His ads seem to be everywhere on Chicago television, and he has a savvy organization led by big-name local politicians.

But the former Massachusetts governor has some serious hurdles to overcome: his own persona and an electorate so sick of politics that voters may not be motivated to cast a ballot for anyone.

Romney is having trouble erasing doubts that he's too stiff, too politically inept and too insensitive to constituents who confront gasoline prices over $4 a gallon every time they pull up to the gas station.

He also faces voters frustrated that the economy is not improving quickly. The jobless rate in Illinois in January was 9.4 percent, down from its 11.4 percent peak two years ago but still well above the national average.

Concerned about Illinois, the Romney camp added weekend campaign stops and is spending millions on ads. It starts with a built-in advantage -- 54 convention delegates are at stake, but Rick Santorum filed slates in only 14 of the state's 18 congressional districts. That means he can vie for only 44 delegates.

The Romney folks see a major, and perhaps even decisive, win as a plus for his candidacy, which has seen a string of victories that includes Florida, Ohio and Michigan.

But a loss would raise fresh questions about his political strength.

His biggest nemesis is former Pennsylvania Sen. Santorum, who's pushing hard for the votes of social conservatives in the Chicago suburbs and the state's smaller communities.