SCROLL DOWN FOR FULL COVERAGE OF THE POTOMAC PRIMARY
Given that the race for the Democratic nomination remains tight, today's Potomac primary is as much about delegates as it is raw votes. HuffPost brings you a live delegate counter - courtesy of ABC news - so that you can keep checking which candidate is netting the most.
For details about conventional delegates and their role in the campaign, read here.
For more voting results and analysis, go to ABC News for more info.
Via The Page
Virginia- polls close 7 pm ET
Washington, D.C.- polls close 8 pm ET
Maryland primaries- polls close 8 pm ET
AP has released preliminary exit poll data from the Maryland and Virginia primaries:
READY TO MAKE HISTORY:
As they helped decide whether their party will nominate the first woman or first black for president, more than eight in 10 voters in the Maryland and Virginia Democratic primaries said the country is ready to elect a black or female president.
Democratic voters in Virginia were a little more likely than their counterparts in Maryland to say the country "definitely" was ready for a black or female president, rather than just "probably" ready.
Blacks in Virginia were a little less likely than whites there to say the country is ready to elect a female president.
Blacks made up more than a third of the Democratic electorate in Maryland, a little less than that in Virginia. In both states women outnumbered men in the Democratic contests. Men and women were pretty evenly divided in the Republican primaries in both states.
According to the Associated Press, Early turnout in Virginia was reported high and city officials in the District of Columbia were hoping that a swath of new registered voters would show up at the polls. Maryland election officials were also projecting a strong turnout, particularly in the Democratic race.
With the GOP race seemingly all but locked up for McCain, some Republican voters are choosing to instead exert their influence on the outcome of the Democratic contest by voting in their primary:
From the National Review:
My wife and I have never voted for anything left of Republican, frequently voting on the Conservative party line when available. Yet today, we both voted for Hillary in the VA primary. Why? Because it seems McCain has it wrapped up, so why waste our vote on the Republican side; she is a lot less scary than Obama in many ways (better the Devil you know), and I think she is more easily beaten with her high negatives and lack of charisma. So we were part of the high Dem turn out today which I am sure you will hear about. And there is no way we will ever vote Dem in November.
I just got an email from an old buddy who is a longtime GOP Hill staffer. He said he was mulling whether to vote for Obama or Clinton. Voting in his own primary wasn't an option.
Which got me thinking.
Tales of strategic voting are almost overblown -- it assumes that there are enough political junkies out there who think like operatives -- but surely there are plenty of savvy Hill rats and other Beltway types doing what my friend did today.
So, how many of you Republicans voted in the Dem primary today?
The Associated Press also reports that the Clinton campaign is "all but conceding losses Tuesday."
Democrat Barack Obama hopes to rout Hillary Rodham Clinton in presidential primaries in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia while Republican John McCain seeks to put more distance between himself and Mike Huckabee.
Coming off weekend victories in five contests, Obama was favored to win the Tuesday trio of primaries thanks to a blend of black and better educated voters in those areas, blocs that have aided his wins in earlier matchups against Clinton. Likewise, McCain was favored on the GOP side.
The Washington Post takes a look at the 8 questions that the Potomac primary could answer:
1) Will a Sweep by Obama Make Him the Front-Runner?
Victories in Maryland, Virginia and the District would give Barack Obama a narrow but undisputed lead among pledged delegates to the Democratic National Convention. Together with the rest of his recent string of victories, such a sweep would bestow unmistakable momentum heading toward next week's primary in Wisconsin and caucus in Hawaii.
2) Will the Clinton-Obama Race Split the Party?
Not until it does. There have been nasty exchanges and low moments, but so far the Clinton and Obama campaigns have managed to pull back from the brink each time they've come close to a major explosion. Most strategists expect that will continue to be the pattern, but the seeds for serious discord exist.
Keep reading here.
The Washington Post offers a preview of the last minute campaigning and explains what's at stake:
Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama offered himself as "something new" at a pair of spirited, arena-size rallies in Maryland yesterday, while his primary rival, Hillary Rodham Clinton, portrayed herself as a "battle-scarred" fighter for the middle class at more intimate events held across the region on the eve of today's primaries.
As the closing arguments were made to voters in Virginia, Maryland and the District, election officials were predicting a heavy turnout for the first-ever "Potomac Primary," and a great deal was at stake for the two Democratic candidates.
Obama was angling to sweep the three jurisdictions. For Clinton, a stronger-than-expected showing could blunt Obama's momentum in what has turned into a protracted competition for convention delegates: 171 are in play today, with contests in larger states such as Ohio and Texas looming.
Republicans will be on the ballot in the three jurisdictions as well today, but the contest between Sen. John McCain of Arizona and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee has been more subdued, given McCain's seemingly insurmountable lead in delegates after Super Tuesday. Still, today's contests, particularly in Virginia, could provide a measure of conservative discontent with the presumptive GOP nominee. On the Republican side, 119 delegates are up for grabs.
Barack Obama goes into the Chesapeake primaries with significant momentum, having swept Clinton in all the contests last weekend. Though the Clinton camp has essentially ceded Maryland and DC, they have ramped up their efforts in Virginia and are hoping to squeak out a victory.
From the LA Times:
Clinton aides have tried to dampen expectations, publicly stoking the prospect of an Obama sweep. But strategic moves by both sides in recent days indicate that Virginia is positioned as Clinton's likeliest target of opportunity Tuesday.
Howard Wolfson, the Clinton campaign's communications director, said that Virginia "is a state along with Maryland and others in February where Sen. Obama has significant advantages. We have long factored that reality into our planning."
Two Virginia polls out Friday lent credence to Wolfson's caution. An InsiderAdvantage survey showed Obama with a 15-point edge, at 52% of the Democratic vote to Clinton's 37%. A SurveyUSA poll gave Obama 59% to Clinton's 37%. Both polls showed a marked deterioration for Clinton, who held double-digit leads in 2007 surveys.
Despite those bleak signs, the Clinton camp has quietly mobilized to exploit "some unique opportunities," said Mo Elleithee, a national Clinton spokesman who was brought in to work on Virginia strategy. Even if Obama captures the popular vote in Virginia, Clinton aides say, they hope to carve off some delegates, who are all chosen proportionately.
With Virginia expected to be the only potentially close contest on the Democratic side, the New York Times explores the state's unique demographic mix:
Mr. Obama is expected to energize blacks, who make up nearly 20 percent of voters in the state. But Larry J. Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, said black voters might, in fact, play an even greater role because in the past they had turned out in disproportionately greater numbers than other groups, as much as 35 percent.
Mrs. Clinton, on the other hand, expects to do well in suburbs and the state's economically struggling rural southwestern region, where unemployment is high. She easily won majorities last Tuesday in many rural counties in Missouri and Tennessee, which share some of Virginia's demographic and cultural traits.
Keep reading here.
On the GOP Side, analysts say Virginia is a crucial test of whether McCain can win over social conservatives:
[W]ith the national GOP paying scant attention to Democrat-rich Washington and Maryland, Virginia stands out as the first bellwether as to whether McCain can heal those wounds, political and religious observers say.
"This is the acid test for McCain," said Charles Dunn, dean of the School of Government at Regent University, a Christian school in Virginia Beach founded by Robertson. "Huckabee comes here, and he speaks their language. Virginia is critical for John McCain."
The polls: The final American Research Group survey in Maryland shows Obama leading Clinton, 55% to 37%. In Virginia, Obama leads Clinton 56% to 38%.
On the Republican side, McCain leads Huckabee 50% to 25% in Maryland, and 54% to 32% in Virginia.
Similar results from Survey USA: The final SUSA polls in Maryland show Obama up 55% to 32%, and McCain leading 52% to 26%. In Virginia, SUSA shows Obama leading Clinton, 60% to 38%, and McCain ahead of Huckabee, 48% to 37%. (However, in the last 72 hours, McCain is down 9 points while Huckabee is up 12 points.)
With the Democratic race so close, attention is increasingly being paid to the role that "super-delegates" will play in determining the nomination. Super-delegates are unique to the Democratic party, and consist of party officials, elected officials and others. Their votes are not bound by the way a particular state votes. Super-delegates are free to pledge themselves to any candidate, regardless of the way the state they're from voted. MSNBC has a good primer on who super-delegates are, and what role they play in the campaign.
For a list of super-delegates who have officially announced who they plan to nominate, read here.
For a list of super-delegates who have not officially endorsed a candidate yet, read here.