The economy remains the top issue for voters (CNN), according to 59 percent of those who went to the polls in Illinois to vote for GOP candidates Tuesday. Another 25 percent said the budget deficit was most important to them. Other issues — immigration and abortion — barely registered on voters’ radar, according to the poll. The poll results follow exit polling data in GOP contests in other states where the economy has remained voters’ major concerns.
The latest poll from Gallup shows U.S. economic confidence has been “volatile” recently, fueled on the downswing in part by “widespread discussion of increasing gas prices by the press and politicians, as well as the financial hardship they cause many Americans” and alternately being buoyed by a positive jobs report for February. The mercurial trend may continue in the coming weeks, pollsters said, especially if gas prices continue to increase. President Barack Obama’s job approval is also likely to be volatile if economic confidence is such, as Gallup finds the two are linked.
Mitt Romney, who won the Illinois with 49 percent of the vote, criticized Obama administration policies he says have led to the economy’s “weak recovery” in his victory speech (WashPost), and said the general election in November will be a “defining decision.”
“Our economic freedom will be on the ballot,” he said, adding that “Americans who want to start a new business or launch a new venture don’t see promise and opportunity. They see government standing in their way.”
Rick Santorum, similarly, said Tuesday night that while there are many important issues at hand including the economy, joblessness, national security, the federal budget, the 2012 election all boils down to “freedom” (NYT). “This is an election about not who’s the best person to manage Washington or manage the economy,” he said. “We don’t need a manager. We need someone who’s going to pull up government by the roots and throw it out and do something to liberate the private sector in America.”
Newt Gingrich spent Tuesday on the stump talking energy in Louisiana, which holds its primary Saturday, “because energy is a big deal in Louisiana (KTBS),” he said. “I don’t want more Saudi oil. I want Louisiana oil. And in the Shreveport area I want more natural gas.”
Recent years’ rise in domestic natural gas production has lead to a dramatic price drop, Gingrich said, and he believes more drilling would cause a similar price drop for oil (Shreveport Times).
–Contributing Editor Gayle S. Putrich