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Super Tuesday Viewer's Guide

Tonight promises an embarrassment of riches for political junkies. With 24 states holding either a Democratic or Republican vote for president, there is -- dare we say it! -- too much to read and watch.

As always, The Fix aims to cut through the clutter for our community of readers. Below you'll find our viewer's guide to tonight's festivities -- everything you need to know (and watch) all night long.

All Day: The folks over at The Trail -- The Fix's sister blog -- have correspondents all over the country filing briefs throughout the day. It's a good way to stay on top of any last minute developments in all of the Super Tuesday states. As for The Fix, we'll be preparing the Democratic lead story for washingtonpost.com and posting regular updates on the five key states we highlighted in yesterday's FixCam.

Also, make sure to check out washingtonpost.com and PostPolitics.com throughout the day for live results, delegate tracking, and analysis.

6 p.m.: washingtonpost.com and Newsweek begin six hours of LIVE broadcasting hosted by Newsweek's Jon Meacham. A rotating cast of characters will make appearances as the night unfolds, including the Post's Dan Balz and Bob Woodward as well as The Fix. It's "Inside Super Tuesday".

7 p.m.: Polls in Georgia close. The Peach State could be a good prognosticator of what the rest of the country holds for the Democratic contest between Sens. Barack Obama (Ill.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.). Georgia is a likely win for Obama given its 30 percent black population -- but watch for how soon the race gets called. Do the networks call it the moment the polls close? If so, that's good news for Obama. The longer the networks wait to call Georgia, the better for Clinton.

8 p.m.: The big enchilada in terms of poll closing times with nine primary states and a caucus (Kansas Democrats). For Republicans, keep an eye on Massachusetts. It's former governor Mitt Romney's (Mass.) adopted home state but Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) sees a chance to pull an upset. Because of McCain's likely dominance in terms of states and delegates today, Romney needs to find a way to score a symbolic victory or two to justify remaining in the race. Losing Massachusetts would be a very tough pill to swallow for the former Bay State governor.

On the Democratic side, both Clinton and Obama have a few likely wins during this hour. For Obama, Illinois and Alabama will almost certainly go his way. For Clinton, Connecticut and Oklahoma should be wins. That leaves a handful of jump-ball states including New Jersey and Missouri. Again, if part of tonight is about scoring symbolic victories, an Obama win in New Jersey -- ostensibly Clinton's backyard -- could send a powerful message about where election night is headed. Missouri is central -- both in terms of geography and the candidates' winning formula. Missouri is literally and figuratively the gateway to the southwest and west today and winning it would give either candidate a nice boost heading into the second half of the night.

9 p.m.: Clinton should get a nice boost between 8:30 p.m. (when Arkansas' polls close) and 9 p.m. when the polling places in New York shut their doors. Both states look like relatively pedestrian victories for Clinton and should be called almost as soon as the polls close. Anything short of that scenario could spell trouble for Clinton.

Many of the caucuses -- Colorado, Idaho, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Dakota -- will be announcing their results around this time as well. Those should all be Obama wins and should allow him to push back against the Clinton victories in New York and Arkansas.

Our guess is that attention quickly will turn to Arizona which both campaigns believe they can win. Obama has Gov. Janet Napolitano and her political machine on his side but the state has a large Hispanic population -- a group that favored Clinton so far. This is a HUGE contest in terms of swinging momentum.

This hour, too, has much good news for McCain as he should easily win in his home state of Arizona as well as New York. If McCain does so, the question will be how the coverage plays out over the next two hours. McCain will likely have a number of the early states won by this point with no other large states closing between now and 11 p.m. That lull will allow more analysis to be done on the GOP side -- analysis that could well send a message to voters in western states (particularly California) that the race is over and McCain has won. Obviously that sort of coverage would be a major boon for McCain and a bust for Romney.

10 p.m.: Utah closes. The Beehive State is as close to a sure thing as there is for Romney. But will it be enough to counter the potential storyline of a McCain sweep in the east and Midwest? Utah is a small state and heavily Mormon so Romney might not get the credit for winning it that he would have otherwise.

11 p.m.: California, the state we've all been waiting for all night, finally closes its polling places. California once looked like a lock for Clinton and McCain but no longer.

On the Democratic side, Obama has made up ground rapidly and enters Election Day with a 50-50 chance of carrying the state. There are really two fights at work in the Golden State. The first is the practical fight for delegates, a battle that seems almost certain to end in something close to a draw due to the proportional manner of winning delegates by congressional district and the differing areas of strength for Clinton and Obama. The second, and perhaps more important fight, is one of perception. California is by far the biggest Super Tuesday state. Combine that with the fact it is the only state with polls that close at 11 p.m. and it's easy to conclude that the eyes of the political world -- and the average voter as well -- will be directly on it from 11 p.m. on. A victory here will leave a strong impression before we all go to bed and get ready to sift through the Super Tuesday detritus on Hangover Wednesday.

California is similarly important on the Republican side. Against all odds, Romney is surprisingly competitive with McCain in the state and winning here would make up for a lot of losses by the former Massachusetts governor earlier in the night. As we wrote above, Romney needs to find a way to claim a symbolic victory or two tonight to justify continuing on, and California provides his best chance at doing just that. Even if Romney loses three quarters of the other 21 states on the Republican map tonight, a win in California allows him to make the case that the contest continues on because the largest state in the union decided he is still in the ring.

By Chris Cillizza  |  February 5, 2008; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2008  
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Next: Super Tuesday: Afternoon Update

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