Republican leaders in Illinois are trying to put the state on the political map. The Republican presidential straw poll is under way. It started on-line on Saturday. U.S. Sen. Mark S. Kirk (R-Ill.) says it may be more important than the actual primary here. “Because our primary is so late, and because it’s likely that the Republican victor will be known by the beginning of February, Illinois becomes political fly-over country, and just an ATM for candidates,” he said Monday at Republican headquarters in Chicago.
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“We need to matter, and the opinions of our voters need to matter.” Kirk says making Illinois the Straw Poll State would be a good strategy for both major parties when they are on the outs. Four Republican candidates – Herman Cain, Mitt Romney, John Huntsman and Rick Perry – have come through Illinois for fundraisers in recent weeks without doing major public appearances, so the straw poll hasn’t yet worked in that regard, though Kirk hopes it will build over the years into something that will attract campaign stops that now are concentrated in Iowa and New Hampshire. So far 1,052 people have voted – a promising start, state Republican Chairman Pat Brady said. Voting on-line continues through Saturday. There will be in-person voting at 20 locations around the state on Saturday. A $5 donation to the Republican Party is required to participate. Results will be announced Saturday night.