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By Times staff
Published March 4, 2008
Today, voters in Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island and Vermont go to the polls for presidential nominating contests. Although there is little drama on the Republican side (Sen. John McCain of Arizona is alone at the top), the Democratic race is pivotal. Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois has a small but significant delegate lead after reeling off 11 straight wins in recent weeks, making today's races crucial to the survival of rival Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York. Here's what to watch for in today's results.
Scenario 1: Split decision
Clinton led comfortably in Texas and Ohio pollsas recently as January, but Obama has pulled even (or ahead) in Texas and has closed the gap sharply in Ohio. Even if Clinton wins Ohio, losing Texas would be crippling because it would tip the delegate count further in Obama's favor and it would mean her strong support among Hispanics ran dry.
In Texas, former President Bill Clinton recently urged on supporters with a warning: "If she wins Texas and Ohio, I think she will be the nominee. If you don't deliver for her, I don't think she can be. It's all on you."
Scenario 2: Obama sweeps biggies
If Obama takes Texas and Ohio, no matter what happens with Vermont and Rhode Island (Clinton has a big lead in Rhode Island, Obama is strong in Vermont), pressure will be enormous for Clinton to drop out.
Scenario 3: Clinton sweeps biggies
Because of the complicated way delegates are apportioned (Texas, for instance, divvies them up using both a primary and a caucus), Clinton must win by 15 or 20 percent to overtake Obama in the delegate race.
If Clinton wins Texas and Ohio with solid margins, say 5 percent, the delegate count would still be against her, but she will have demonstrated big-stage electability that really muddies the choice for Democrats. In that case, Pennsylvania's April 22 primary would be the next big test.
[Last modified March 3, 2008, 22:57:09]