PJ Media

PJM Special Coverage: Texas, Ohio, Vermont, R.I. [UPDATED]

06:09 am PST, March 5 — President John McCain, And Obama Edges Ahead In Late-Counting Texas Primary/Caucus

President John McCain. That potentiality just got a whole lot closer, with a couple of big steps.

First, McCain formally clinched the Republican presidential nomination he essentially won by knocking Mitt Romney out of the race in last month’s California primary. Tonight, McCain went over the number of earned delegates needed to win the nomination at the national convention in St. Paul, Minnesota, and never-say-die Mike Huckabee announced that he will be happy to support his Western senator friend.

Second, and most importantly, the Democratic presidential race appeared set to go for months longer, as Hillary Clinton — succeeding once again with the media in reframing her expectations (three weeks ago, her campaign leadership promised big wins that would put them back even with Barack Obama in the delegate count) — won a couple of contests for the first time in a month. She didn’t dent Barack Obama’s probably uncatchable lead in delegates actually won in primary and caucus contests. But she did win in Ohio, which she had to do, and by a sizable margin, much more than the exit poll indicated, again raising the specter of voters lying about a race involving a black candidate. The exit poll, as you see below, had it Clinton by 51-48. But the final vote, and there are still some votes outstanding and reports of widespread irregularities, looks like 54-44.

In Texas, which has a two-phase contest called the primary caucus, it appears that Obama will end up the overall winner. Clinton is narrowly finishing first in the popular vote of the primary, and by the exact margin of the exit poll, 51% to 48%. She led there by over 20 points a month ago. In the caucus, Obama appears set to come out on top, in terms of delegate allocation in such a close primary (bonus delegates awarded in high turnout districts in the last general election favor Obama) and the caucuses last night.

Once they get around to counting the votes, that is. I waited and waited well into the night and early morning hours as the Texas caucus numbers slowly came out, with all the speed of freezing molasses. Finally, sleep beckoned for a few hours, and I was barely able to set an alarm for the wee hours of the morning to again check the Texas results. Which are exactly what they were three hours ago, with Obama holding a 5-point lead.

The Texas caucus count has been stalled.

What’s going on? Corrrespondent George Roper said last night that some caucuses were so large precinct chairs stopped counting votes and concentrated on organization. Under party rules, precinct caucus results don’t have to be reported for a few days.

And the Clinton campaign objected to the count.

The Dallas Morning News political blog reported that the Clinton campaign objected to the release of caucus results: “OK, caucus results are starting to roll in, sort of in bits and pieces. And in spite of the very strong objections of “primarily one campaign” *cough* Team Clinton *cough* the party is releasing some results in counties or Senate districts that either have at least 40 percent of the precincts … or that have less than that, but aren’t likely to change because they have pretty solid demographics.”

That was a few hours before the Texas caucus count slowed dramatically and then stopped. Bear in mind that the Clintons have called the Texas caucuses incomprehensible — odd, since President Clinton won them when he ran, and the rules have been the same for decades, indeed are the same as they were when I helped run a campaign there in the 1980s — threatened to sue the Texas Democratic Party last week to block the release the results, fell short on organizing enough precinct captains to cover the state, and held an emergency media conference call last night to cry foul over a few precincts in Obama strongholds.

So the Democrats are in a highly contentious muddle.

Which is fabulous news for John McCain, who now has many weeks if not months to organize, fundraise, hone his message, and watch his two superstar Democratic opponents gnaw on each other like badgers.

McCain goes to Iraq in a week-and-a-half. He’s embracing the conflict, and the need for a settlement there, and will be laying out anew his different view on the prosecution of the Terror War.

Next month, he will formally kick off his general election campaign — which, of course, he has already kicked off somewhat less formally — with a sort of biography tour of America. He will visit key places in his life which also have historical and values resonance in America, such as the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, various military bases, and historical landmarks.

Which could take in quite a broad sweep of locales, since he is, as he puts it, “older than dirt.”

John McCain, whose candidacy was declared dead twice last year, is going to be having some fun here.

Meanwhile, the Democrats — for whom this election should be just this side of a slam dunk — will most assuredly not be.

8:38 pm PST — McCain Clinches, Huck Drops Out, Clinton Wins Ohio And Complains About Texas

Okay, a few things since being knocked offline for a time.

John McCain, as forecast earlier, tonight formally clinched the Republican nomination, Mike Huckabee graciosly signaled the end of his campaign.

Hillary Clinton was projected as the winner of the Ohio and Rhode Island primaries, with apparent larger margins than the exit polls indicated. Importantly, the Cleveland metropolitan area vote, an Obama stronghold, is not in amidst widespread apparent irregularities.

Meanwhile, the exit polls in Texas and Vermont appear to be right on target. Vermont went for Obama, of course, and Texas is still at this late hour too close to call, with Clinton clinging to a narrow lead with important votes still not in.

Obama appears headed, meanwhile, to a sizable victory in the Texas caucuses, as discussed earlier.

The Clinton campaign held an amusing conference call earlier this evening to allege cheating by the Obama campaign, in what are widely acknowledged to be a relative handful of Obama stronghold precincts. Obama lawyer Bob Bauer jumped into the media conference call and debated Clinton spinner Howard Wolfson, noting that he predicted that the Clinton campaign would cry foul.

I’ll quote from this exchange later.

As noted in the kick-off column this morning, Hillary Clinton is going on, despite the fact that she has not cut into Obama’s lead in earned delegates.

Her win in Ohio, however, gives her some fresh momentum, which she will undoubtedly talk up.

The continuing Democratic campaign is a real plus for John McCain, who begins his general election campaign in earnest tomorrow as the Democrats continue their dog fight until at least the Democratic primary in Pennsylvania. On April 22nd. And perhaps far beyond.

6:20 pm PST — Clinton Campaign Cries Foul in Texas

With signs that the early vote in the Texas primary for Barack Obama was somewhat bigger than expected, and facing a likely defeat in the Texas caucuses, the Hillary Clinton campaign is now holding a media conference call alleging various irregularities and unfairnesses in the Texas vote.

Hmm … This complaining will go on for awhile.

5:22 pm PST — Texas Exit Poll

Polling places are still open in much of Texas. Nevertheless … Here is the exit poll number for the Texas Democratic primary which I referred to indirectly two hours ago in giving you “a not unlikely scenario” for tonight.

Hillary Clinton 51%, Barack Obama 48%.

Clinton led Obama by 20 points early last month.

It is quite possible that Obama will win more delegates in Texas, by the end of what will be a very long night tonight.

For two reasons.

First, the delegate allocation in the Texas primary plays to Obama’s strength. Black districts turn out in higher numbers in general elections than Latino districts. The black districts thus gain a premium in delegates to the Democratic national convention. A narrow edge in the popular vote could be unavailing for Clinton.

Second, only two thirds of the Texas delegates come from the Texas primary. The other third of the delegates come from the Texas caucuses. Which Obama has a very good chance of winning.

The Texas caucuses won’t start for one more hour.

4:56 pm PST — Ohio Exits

From the Ohio exit polls.

Clinton 51%, Obama 48%. Three weeks ago, Clinton led Obama, 55-34. The polls are staying open in at least one part of the state due to flooding problems.

Obama leads among men, 52-47. Clinton leads among women, 54-45.

Among voters who paid close attention to debates, Obama leads, 51-49. Among those who paid little or no attention to debates, Clinton leads, 55-42.

Obama leads in electability, 53-44.

Clinton leads as potential commander-in-chief, 57-40.

Clinton is seen as having the clearest plan. Obama is seen as being the most inspirational.

Clinton is seen as the most unfair in campaign attacks, 52-33.

NAFTA is seen as a job killer by 81% of Democratic primary voters.

4:38 pm PST — Ohio Too Close To Call For Dems, McCain Wins Big Uncertainty In Cleveland Delegates

As you might suppose from my rendition of the exit polls about an hour and a half ago, the Ohio Democratic primary is too close to call.

On February 12th, Hillary Clinton led Barack Obama in the Quinnipiac poll by a whopping 55% to 34%.

Key to the delegate outcome in Ohio will be the margins in the Cleveland area congressional districts.

Here is a disquieting report from correspondent Patrick Poole: The Columbus Dispatch is reporting that Republicans in Cuyahoga County (Cleveland) are expressing concern that mid-day ballot pickups were being conducted solely by Democratic officials in violation of state law. The Ohio legislature made provision for mid-day pick-ups to help speed up vote counting on election day, but required that both Democratic and Republic officials had to be present. A blog post on the Ohio GOP website cites a Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter as saying that the Cuyahoga Board of Elections is admitting the error after initially denying it. The heavily Democratic and heavily liberal area (partially represented by Dennis Kucinich) is notorious for questionable voting practices. Cuyahoga is also Ohio’s most populous county and will play a critical role in deciding today’s Democratic Party winner.

4:03 pm PST — Obama Wins Vermont Landslide

Barack Obama has just won the Vermont Democratic presidential primary in a landslide. By roughly, apparently, a two to one margin. Which is likely to yield a significant delegate haul in the context of the overall evening. (See the item below.)

John McCain also won the Republican primary, naturally.

3:30 pm PST — A Not Unlikely Scenario

Without incurring the wrath of the exit poll police, let’s look at a not unlikely scenario for tonight.

Hillary Clinton narrowly wins the popular vote in Ohio and Texas. Her once enormous lead in Rhode Island melts away. Barack Obama wins big in tiny Vermont.

Obama wins the Texas caucuses. Obama may win more delegates out of the Texas primary, because of how delegates are apportioned there. (Black districts get more delegates than Latino districtsd because they turn out at higher rates in general elections.

Botton line. Hillary ends up with bragging rights for winning the popular votes in Ohio and Texas. Where, lest we forget, she had 20 point-plus leads only a few weeks ago.

But she does not cut into Obama’s lead in earned delegates, which in fact increases some

2:50 pm PST — On Waiting, And The Problematic (For Democrats) Frame Of 3 AM Phone Calls

Plenty of anecdotal evidence of big turnouts in Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

In Texas, I’m told that the Clinton machine has come up quite short on precinct captains for tonight’s post-primary caucuses, in which one-third of that state’s huge delegate haul will be won. Which might affect their plan, discussed in the morning kick-off column, to show up early and gain control of caucus reporting posts.

In Ohio, where icy cold weather and flooding might affect either Democrat’s supporters, but where the state’s secretary of state, aligned with Hillary’s state chairman, Governor Strickland, has disallowed the Obama campaign’s request to keep polling places open. Presumably, the freshman Illinois senator’s younger and presumably spryer supporters being better able to deal with flooding on their way to the polls.

In Rhode Island, where the latest poll, from Brown University, has Obama having closed what was once a 25-point deficit down to five points. Although that 20 percent undecided might not break well for him, with Clinton kitchen sink having more than grazed him in the furious close of the campaign.

And in Vermont, where Obama will win big.

Meantime, I’m thinking about that “3 AM” TV spot Clinton rolled out against Obama on Friday, the one that says you need an experienced hand for those middle-of-the-night national security crises.

The conventional wisdom is that this helps Hillary in the Democratic primary. Because she gets some credit for experience, mostly from her association with her husband the president. And mainly because she is the name you know. Both she and Obama are quite famous at this point. But Clinton is the name you’ve known for going on two decades, a great brand on the Democratic side of the aisle.

But raising the issue so early in what is fast becoming a general election — at least from John McCain’s perspective — is not a plus for the Democrats, even though Hillary had to do it in her struggle to begin to get back on an even keel with Obama.

Because the truth is that neither she nor Obama has much national security experience. As first lady, Hillary didn’t have a security clearance, and she hasn’t released her records from the White House years, so she can’t very well claim to have played a central role there. As senator, she made certain to get on the Armed Services Committee, and as a famous senator who voted to authorize the Iraq War, and having been President Bill Clinton’s first lady, she certainly knows enough generals and admirals. After all, her husband appointed the ones who are backing her.

But she, like Barack Obama, was never in the military. And Obama, at least, can take the argument to McCain from a different frame. Not from a pretension of having national security crisis experience — which neither he nor Hillary has — but from the angle of having demonstrated better judgment.

Right or wrong, it’s a case, at least, which a skillful lawyer — and Obama is the brainy former head of the Harvard Law Review, as well as a powerful orator — can make.

But the current frame, prompted by Hillary, i.e., who is the best qualified to answer that ringing Oval Office phone at 3 AM, is nothing more than a perfect set-up for John McCain.

And you can bet Team McCain will be driving that point home.

2:10 pm PST — Ohio Update: Flooding Crossovers and Flooding Precincts

Correspondent Patrick Poole reports in from Ohio: The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that GOP voters are crossing over in the Democratic primary in potentially record numbers. Motives appear to be mixed:

One woman voted for Clinton in hopes of delivering John McCain a weaker debate opponent. Another picked Obama because her vote could help deny Clinton and her husband a return trip to the White House.

Both the Clinton and Obama campaigns have been trading accusation of dirty politicking today. According to the Columbus Dispatch, a certified Obama poll watcher has been tossed from a precinct for “aggressively challenging voters”. Imagine the outrage if a Republican worker had been accused of such. The Obama camp is also crying foul over a Hillary radio ad airing today that appears to be a news report attacking Obama for his duplicitous position on NAFTA (traveling Ohio saying he was against it, while reassuring Canada’s government that it was just “political posturing”). Perhaps his defense is that he was for it while he was against it.

Flooding is being reported in southern parts of the state, prompting some precincts to close and forcing voters to go to their local board of elections offices to vote. Another major glitch appears to be (Democratic) Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner’s plan to allow voters to cast paper ballots if they so desired, stymied in her attempts to revert the whole state to a paper ballot plan. Apparently many precincts were not provided paper ballots, and other precincts had no place for paper ballots to be filled out. Way to go, Jenn!

12:09 pm PST — Houston Report, And Bill Clinton Rides The Texas Seesaw

Correspondent Anne Ford checks in from Houston, noting that Hillary Clinton continued campaigning there today as she tried to pull out a win in Texas, where she led by more than 20 points a month ago.

“I went to the Obama rally last night,” she says, at the George Brown Center” named for one of the Brown brothers of the famed Brown & Root construction firm that funded Lyndon B. Johnson’s path to power. She reports that there were 6000 people there, filling the arena. The crowd, she says, was enthusiastic, but Obama seemed tired compared to some of the times she’s seen his rallies on TV.

Neverthless, she points out, Houston appears to be a major Obama stronghold, as is the Metroplex area of Dallas and Fort Worth. Early voting, which began February 19th in Texas, was heavy in the Houston area, and is expected to favor Obama more than areas in other states where the early voting began well before Obama was able to show up in the state to campaign.

Former President Bill Clinton has only been in Houston once in the past few weeks, she reports, for a small rally of 400 people.

But, contrary to some press reports that he is muzzled and off the trail, the ex-prez has been very much in evidence for many days in the past two weeks in heavily Latino South Texas and in much of rest of the far-flung Lone Star State. Texas has more media markets than any other state in the country, including California and New York. Just because Bill Clinton is not in the mega-cities where the out-of-state press corps temporarily roosts, and thus out of mind, does not mean that he is not being seen by much of the state.

For example, Clinton yesterday wrapped up a furious bid to deliver to his wife a state whose primary and caucuses he carried, with events in eight cities across the sweep of Texas.

The former president hit Corpus Christi, Edinburg, Brownsville, Laredo, Eagle Pass, and Del Rio, before wrapping things up last night with a rally in the biggest city in West Texas, El Paso.

10:41 am PST — McCain’s Messaging: NAFTA, Russia, Iraq

While the Democratic campaigns busy themselves with get-out-the-vote efforts and the preparation of spin for various scenarios, John McCain is in Texas to insert himself into the news flow in advance of the general election and develop more financial support from big Texas money folks.

His election night event at the Fairmont Hotel in Dallas serves both those purposes.

It will also mark his numerical clinching of the Republican nomination. After tonight, he will have enough delegates to win the nomination at the Republican national convention in St. Paul, Minnesota, though Mike Huckabee might continue running. Of course, McCain effectively won the nomination last month when he knocked Mitt Romney out of the race in the California primary.

This morning, McCain appeared at a cafe in San Antonio, talking up his support for NAFTA and speaking out against the Russian presidential election over the weekend.

As he did yesterday, McCain again attacked Russia, saying that the election Sunday of Dmitry Medvedev as Russia’s new president – and he, unlike Hillary and, perhaps, Obama, really did know his name and a fair amount about him – is largely bogus. And that Russia should be expelled from the prestigious G8 grouping of advanced industrial nations because it is not a democracy.

McCain’s senior advisor Steve Schmidt also went on MSNBC this morning to begin drawing the contrast on Iraq and Al Qaeda, focusing on likely Democratic nominee Barack Obama.

“What Barack Obama wants to do,” said Schmidt, “is to withdraw our troops in a way that will allow Al Qaeda to declare victory. In the first decade of the 21st century, this will have profound consequences for the peace and safety of the world. John McCain says we will bring our troops home, but they will come home in victory and honor.

“We’re going to have a great debate in this country between Senator McCain and one of these two Democratic candidates. Because there are profound differences and the American people will decide.”

The McCain team is pleased with Obama — who they view as the most formidable opponent — getting tangled up in the controversy over the internal Canadian government memo saying his economic advisor privately reassured a diplomat that his criticism of NAFTA was not to be taken seriously.

Obama provides the clearer contrast on the Iraq issue, but they think they can win the security debate by properly framing it and playing up the very sharp contrast in experience.

Clinton voted with McCain to authorize the invasion of Iraq, and was not much of a critic of the war’s mishandling, so they are pleased with that match-up.

09:44 am PST — Where Are the Candidates Today, and Tonight

The candidates’ whereabouts, especially on election night, can be telling.

Barack Obama has an election night party in San Antonio, Texas.

Hillary Clinton has appearance in Dallas and Houston, Texas, then has an election night party in Columbus, Ohio.

John McCain has events in San Antonio, Houston, and Dallas, Texas.

Mike Huckabee has events in Dallas and Irving, Texas.

Obama has the best chance in one of today’s big states for a come-from-behind win in Texas, where he’s running neck and neck in the primary and should do well in the caucuses.

Clinton has the best chance in Ohio, where the late NAFTA hit regarding the leaked Canadian government memo on his economic advisor’s purported private remarks may have guaranteed victory.

McCain knows that Texas may be getting the most attention due to the Democratic fight. It’s also where Huckabee will get the largest vote and where the fairly popular Republican governor, Rick Perry, is a big backer.

So McCain can raise some money in a big money state for Republicans and get his developing general election message out as the day goes on.

08:56 am PST — Ohio’s Heavy Turnout, If Enough Brave The Weather

Correspondent Patrick Poole reports in from Ohio: “Even at 6:30 this morning when the polls first opened, there was a line of voters waiting at J.W. Reason Elementary School. By 6:35, the first argument had erupted between a poll worker and voter over who was next. In suburban Hilliard, Ohio, a predominantly Republican area, voters are taking this primary seriously. The Ohio Secretary of State’s office estimates that fifty percent of registered voters will vote in today’s primary – comparable with a presidential election. As I was waiting for my turn to vote, I noted that the school seemed much smaller than when I was a student there thirty years ago.

One other thing I observed at the polls is that several of my neighbors who I would otherwise suspect of being more likely to vote in the Republican primary ended up casting ballots in the Democratic race. Now that John McCain has the GOP nomination safely in hand, the crossover vote could be extraordinary. That is one factor that none of the polls I have seen has even tried to account for. In an odd twist, typical GOP voters and independents might have a greater say in who wins the Democrat primary than Democrats themselves.

Mother Nature may be casting her own vote today as rain and snow cover most of Ohio. The northern one-third of the state (which would include Toledo, Cleveland, Akron and Youngstown – the Rust Belt) is receiving snow and ice. If the weather lowers turnout in the north, that might bode well for Hillary. But that can’t be counted on.

Or it might hurt Hillary, whose supporters tend to be older.”

07:25 am PST — Game Day

It’s another big day in presidential politics, with primaries in Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Hillary Clinton needs a very big day to start closing the gap with Barack Obama in earned delegates, in which she is over 150 behind. No matter what happens today, however, Clinton has made it clear she will not be dropping out of the race.

Clinton needs a string of very big wins to close the gap on Obama, who now also leads in national polls. That appears very unlikely, barring some sort of unforeseen collapse by Obama. A few weeks ago, Clinton chief strategist Mark Penn and communications director Howard Wolfson promised that string of big wins would at last begin today with big wins in Texas and Ohio. Now, however, they have attempted to reset expectations by saying that it is Obama who needs to win all four states. And that Hillary intends to fight all the way to the convention.

Oh, and the atmospherics? Stormy. The Obama campaign says Hillary is “lying” about NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement, which many, especially in Ohio, blame for plant closings and job losses). For her part, Clinton contributed this kind remark: “I think that I have a lifetime of experience that I will bring to the White House. I know Senator McCain has a lifetime of experience to the White House. And Senator Obama has a speech he gave in 2002.” The latter being the speech opposing the invasion of Iraq, which Clinton voted for.

Nevertheless, despite the atmospherics and spin, Obama victories in Texas and Ohio –where Clinton led by 20 points and more just a month ago– would likely start an inexorable process by top Democrats to force Clinton from the race. Even taking one of those states would ratchet up the pressure exponentially.

However, that may not happen. The polls appear tight in both of the big states, and the late atmospherics seem to favor Clinton. (Vermont will go Obama in a big way; Rhode Island had semed another Clinton bastion, but Obama has cut the gap there by more than half.)

Even as its internal fighting has spilled out into public view –with Harold Ickes ripping Mark Penn and chief strategist Penn telling the LA Times that he is merely “an outside message advisor”– the Clinton campaign with its usual junkyard dog approach in back-to-the-wall situations has muddied the waters with enough doubt to potentially sway the latest deciding voters.

A controversy over NAFTA, with the suspicious leaking of an internal Canadian government memo on a discussion between Obama’s senior economic advisor and a Canadian diplomat, was the cherry on top of the sundae. With Obama not handling it decisively by reminding that NAFTA exists of because of the Clinton White House upon which Hillary relies for her claim of being the most experienced candidate, and with an obviously mischievous Conservative Canadian administration involved, Clinton succeeded in distracting from her own touting of NAFTA and in making Obama appear disingenuous. By the time the Canadians backed Obama’s version of events, the damage had been done.

The other ingredients?

First, they attempted to adjust expectations further downward, as discussed. The media seems happy to again accommodate, as it thrives on continued conflict.

Then they decided to run against Obama by citing Hillary’s supposed superiority in a national security crisis, running an ad all across Texas called “3 AM.”

Next, run against the press. All last year, the press touted Hillary’s “inevitability,” calling her extremely well-prepared to be president, with a great campaign, ignoring significant mistakes by the candidate such as her misunderstanding the doctrine of nuclear deterrence. Now the line is that she is losing because the press is against her.

Then, deal with the complications of Texas, in which two-thirds of the delegates are chosen in a primary she might win, and one-third are chosen in caucuses that night which she may well lose even if she wins the primary. How to deal with it? By making the process sound mysterious and unfair, though it’s been in place for decades, by threatening to sue the Texas Democratic Party to stall reporting of results (that didn’t work), and by instructing supporters to arrive very early at their precinct caucuses and get themselves elected as recorders of the results.

Finally, don’t quite deny the rumor that Obama is secretly a Muslim, a little move Clinton added in her 60 Minutes appearance Sunday night.

The NAFTA controversy was telling in that Clinton has been able to dominate the last 18 ours of campaigning.

Obama had very tough sledding on the NAFTA controversy, where his economic advisor appears to have been sandbagged by conservative elements in the Canadian government and the Clintons, working at separate but aligned purposes. The Canadians, after a big row in their parliament yesterday, issued a statement saying that economic advisor Austan Goolsbee said nothing in private about NAFTA that was inconsistent with what Obama says publicly; namely, that it needs to be reworked for labor and environmental purposes. But the leaked internal Canadian government memo played it differently, and so the element of doubt is very much out there.

After the row yesterday in his country’s parliament, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was forced to appear and make this statement: “I certainly deny any allegation that this government has attempted to interfere in the American election,” he told the parliament. He didn’t explain how the internal memo sent to his office, which the government now says was inaccurate, happened to find its way to a reporter covering the US presidential race.

Cleverly, the Clinton campaign turned the controversy into a radio ad blanketing Ohio in the form of a faux news report: “This is an election news update with a major news story reported by the AP. While Senator Obama has crisscrossed Ohio giving speeches attacking NAFTA, his top economic advisor was telling the Canadians that was all just political maneuvering. A newly released document from the Canadian government shows that Obama’s senior economic advisor met with the Canadian Consul General and made clear that Obama’s attack on NAFTA were just, quote, ‘political maneuvering,’ not policy. Political maneuvering, not policy. In fact, the document shows that Obama’s advisor also assured the Canadians that these attacks against NAFTA would not continue. Obama would not want to be, quote, “fundamentally changing the agreement.” As Senator Obama was telling one story to Ohio, his campaign was telling a very different story to Canada. How will Ohioans decide whether they can believe Senator Obama’s words? We’ll find that out on election day. Paid for by Hillary Clinton for President.”

All that should guarantee a Clinton victory in Ohio, despite Obama’s charge there in the last two weeks.

As for Texas, it’s all down to turnout. Will black voters turn out in higher numbers than Latino voters? Will young voters turn out for Obama? And how well people buy the idea that Clinton is a more credible figure to answer that ringing phone at 3 AM.

There are, as always, at least a couple of wild cards.

For one, some conservative talk show hosts, led by Rush Limbaugh, are urging their listeners to cross over and vote for Hillary Clinton. They want a Democratic demolition derby, and dearly want to run against Hillary, their longtime bête noire.

John McCain, who actually won the Republican race by knocking out Mitt Romney in California on February 5th, is likely to mathematically clinch the nomination tonight, though Mike Huckabee may continue to hang around for awhile. So Republicans to vote for whomever they want, for whatever reason.

For another, there is the weather. It is quite inclement across Ohio today, which could certainly affect turnout. In one scenario, it keeps some of the older voters who support Hillary away from the polls. In another, it keeps some of the younger and newer voters who support Obama away from the polls.

Here is how the day unfolds:

Texas
Open Democratic and Republican primaries.
Open Democratic caucuses
193 Democratic delegates and 137 Republican delegates
Polls open from 5 AM to 6 PM Pacific (most close at 5 PM Pacific). Caucuses are scheduled to begin 15 minutes after the polls close.

Ohio
Open Democratic and Republican primaries
141 Democratic delegates and 85 Republican delegates
Polls open from 3:30 AM Pacific to 4:30 PM Pacific

Rhode Island
Open Democratic and Republican primaries
21 Democratic delegates and 17 Republican delegates
Polls open from 4 AM Pacific to 6 PM Pacific

Vermont
Open Democratic and Republican primaries
15 Democratic delegates and 17 Republican delegates
Polls open from 3 AM Pacific to 4 PM Pacific