Mitt Romney leads his closest rival Rick Santorum by double digits in the upcoming battleground of Illinois, according to a poll released Monday.
The American Research Group survey showed Romney with support from 44% of likely GOP primary voters, compared to 30% who backed Santorum. The fourteen point margin is a marked increase for Romney, who stood only four points ahead of his rival in a Chicago Tribune/WGN poll taken at the beginning of March.
The two other candidates in the race for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination trailed the leaders by a wide margin. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich stood at 13%, and Texas Rep. Ron Paul had the backing of 8% of likely GOP voters. Four percent said they were still undecided.
Fifty-four delegates are at stake in Illinois, which holds its Republican presidential primary Tuesday.
In early voting, Romney also holds a solid lead over Santorum, according to the poll. Fifty-one percent of people surveyed who said they had already voted cast ballots for Romney, compared to 36% who said they went for Santorum.
Even among tea party supporters, Romney held a lead over Santorum, despite the perception among some Republicans that Romney is the less conservative candidate. Forty-one percent of voters who said they were supporters of the tea party backed Romney, and 35% supported Santorum.
Romney also led Santorum among both men and women, though his support among males was lower than it was among females. He had the backing of 43% of men, and 46% of women.