As Glowing Fish observed, the electoral votes in Illinois will undoubtedly be cast for President Barack Obama in the 2012 Presidential General Election. Illinois has been a reliably "blue" state for decades, largely due to the disproportionately large population of urban Chicago. This voting block turned out in very low numbers for the Primary election this year. The 24 percent of eligible voter turnout was the lowest in 70 years.
While it may be easy to dismiss this figure to the lack of a strong Republican base, the numbers in the surrounding counties may reveal simple general apathy. In adjoining DuPage County, only 25 percent of eligible voters turned out. White-collar DuPage, Lake, Kane, Will and suburban Cook counties are the homes to the state's Reganite, fiscally conservative, Republican base. The majority of registered Republicans who cast their votes for this primary, voted for Mitt Romney. The counties which included the state capitol, Springfield as well as East St. Louis, Bloomington, and Peoria also had a majority of votes cast for Romney.
In the remainder of "downstate" Illinois, the majority of votes were cast for Rick Santorumn. But, again, the voter turnout in these sparsely populated agrarian and conservative counties was poor. I believe that the vote in Peoria deserves some further attention. Peoria County is rural and conservative, the lardscape defined by corn and soybean fields and grain silos.
But the City of Peoria is the headquarters for Caterpillar Incorporated, the world's largest producer of heavy machinery. Recently, Caterpillar broke ground for a new factory in Athens, Georgia which shall employ about 1,400 workers. Caterpillar's CEO, Doug Oberhelman very publicly let the people of Illinois know that, due to Illinois current "political climate" concerning unfavorable business taxes, workers compensation laws and tort laws among other things, that Illinois was not even considered for a possible location for the new factory.
Corruption is synonymous with Illinois politics. Two of the last three elected Governors are currently behind bars. Yet in Chicago, the dynasty of mayor Richard Michael Daley was supported for over two decades by an enthusiastic majority. It is highly unlikely that any Republican will carry the Chicago vote in the general election. But to the blue-collared Illinois worker, traditionally pro-union and democratic voting, this business with Caterpillar is a smack-in-the-face, a wake-up call that jobs are at stake and change is necessary. This change may be a swing to the right in Springfield. A pro-business candidate may find stronger support in this environment. Mitt Romney won 47 percent of the vote, compared to Rick Santorum's 37 percent, in Peoria County. It could be possible that the discontent with the state of Illinois politics has had an influence on the Republican presidential primary vote.