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A Few Questions Before Polls Close

Polls close in Virginia in less than two hours (7 p.m.) and in Maryland and the District of Columbia 60 minutes later.

While Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) are expected to roll to victories in Maryland and the District, Virginia could well be a battleground for both parties. Former governor Mike Huckabee (R-Ark.) is making a serious push against McCain in the Commonwealth and supporters of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) view Virginia as her best chance for a strong showing tonight.

As always in the hours leading up to polls closing, we have more questions than we have answers. The Post's chief political scribe -- and the smartest political reporter we know -- Dan Balz, offered eight key questions that tonight's Potomac Primary might answer. Do yourself a favor and read the whole piece.

Here's a few other questions worth considering as you watch the returns roll in tonight.

* How much do margins matter? Polling suggests McCain and Obama carried double digit leads into today's Virginia vote. If they win by single digits do either Huckabee or Clinton declare victory? Clinton, for her part, would likely do so as the calendar for the rest of February isn't too friendly for her. A closer than expected loss would likely be cast by the Clinton operation as a sign that there is no wave building behind Obama and would buy her the time she needs to run strong in Ohio and Texas. Huckabee's wins over the weekend in Louisiana Kansas put the "McCain as nominee" storyline on hold and a Huckabee win (or narrow loss) in Virginia would hold the coronation off a bit longer.

On the other hand, if Obama wins Virginia by a wide margin, the "what's wrong with Clinton" storyline is sure to dominate the coverage over the next few days. On the Republican side, a convincing McCain sweep tonight would likely signal the end of the Huckaboom as the former Arkansas governor would almost certainly bow to the seemingly inevitable.

* How many more votes are cast in the Democratic primary than the Republican primary in Virginia? Democrats believe recent gains at both the statewide and legislative level are clear indicators that the Commonwealth will be a contested state at the presidential level in 2008. If Democratic turnout vastly exceeds Republican turnout -- as anecdotal reports seem to suggest -- it will be yet more evidence that they are right.

* Who helps (or hurts) themselves in the Veepstakes? Virginia is known as the "mother of presidents" but given the number of vice presidential picks in the Commonwealth a renaming might be in order. Gov. Tim Kaine (D) has the most riding on tonight's results as a very early endorser of Obama's campaign. A convincing win for the Illinois Senator will likely mean a strong performance by Kaine's political organization. Sen. Jim Webb (Va.) is mentioned as a veep pick for either Clinton or Obama -- the main reason he took a VERY low profile in the week between Super Tuesday and tonight's vote. Does Webb decide to endorse if Obama wins convincingly in the Commonwealth tonight? And then there is former governor Mark Warner, the most popular politician in the state and an overwhelming favorite to win the state's open U.S. Senate seat this November. Warner was a one-time presidential candidate in his own right and clearly wants back in to the national picture. But how?

Check this space for semi-regular updates throughout the night. You can also stay up to date on the latest happenings here.

By Chris Cillizza  |  February 12, 2008; 5:56 PM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2008  
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