Mitt Romney's win in Puerto Rico Sunday and his lead in the delegate race haven't quieted fears among Republicans that the former Massachusetts governor is unable to connect with everyday Americans.
Illinois, which holds its Republican presidential primary tomorrow, is a case in point. Influential GOP figures, including former Gov. Jim Edgar and former U.S. House Republican leader Bob Michel, complain that Romney hasn't created much enthusiasm within the GOP base and hasn't generated much excitement in any way.
This is jeopardizing Romney's once-substantial lead in Illinois. Polls show that Romney is still ahead but former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum is gaining ground, forcing Romney to campaign heavily in Illinois in the runup to tomorrow's primary, with 69 delegates at stake.
In Puerto Rico Sunday, Romney's win wasn't attributed to his personal popularity but rather to a controversial statement by Santorum, who appeared to suggest that English should be declared the main language of Puerto Rico before the island could become a state. This proved to be an unpopular position among GOP voters there.
Republican polls nationwide show that many voters don't believe Romney understands their problems and that he has been too negative in the campaign so far.
These notions were reinforced by latest NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll finding that the negative GOP campaign has increased the negative ratings of the individual GOP candidates, including Romney. Forty percent of Americans felt less favorable toward the GOP candidates; 12 per cent felt more favorable, and 47 per cent said the campaign has had no impact on their assessment of the candidates.