The Potomac primary: Can Huckabee catch-up and can Clinton cut margins?

Polls are now open in the Potomac primary, in DC, Maryland and Virgina. On the Democratic side, there is very little suspense as to the winner, though Clinton is hoping to cut Obama's margins a little. On the Republican side, Huckabee has been making a major play for Virginia, but it could be too little, too late.

ARG just released its final polls of Virginia and Maryland. Both surveys were in the field on Sunday-Monday:

  • On the Democratic side, there is very little movement from the Friday-Saturday poll. Clinton trails in Maryland 55% to 38% and in Virginia 57% to 40%.

  • The GOP numbers are more interesting. In Maryland, McCain is ahead 53% to 27%. But in Virginia, McCain has collapsed from a 22% lead to an 8% one, 47% to 39%.
The Virginia trendline is almost exactly the same we saw in SUSA, whose Sunday poll showed a sudden tightening of the race compared to the Thursday numbers. Huckabee is making a late charging in Virginia, and a victory here could mark a major shift in the Republican contest, as it would mean that McCain will have to fight much longer than he expected to get the nomination. Helping Huckabee is the fact that many moderate voters might be discouraged to vote since they think McCain has wrapped it up, and the conservatives of the party seem to be more motivated to make a stand right now than those who might be more comfortable with the Arizona Senator.

Unfortunately for Huckabee, the delegate allocation rules could play out at McCain's advantage once again. Virginia is winner-take-all and awards a 60 delegates, so even a very narrow loss would shut Huckabee out entirely from the delegate count. Given that McCain is likely to take all of Maryland's 37 delegates (winner-take all statewide and by district) and DC's 15 delegates (also winner-take-all), that would give McCain a massive boost towards the finish line, likely marking the end of any McCain resistance.

On the Democratic side, it's all about the delegate count. And RT strategies just released an impressive poll with 14,000 interviews in Maryland, DC and Virginia combined. The poll has district-by-district breakdown, with projections of delegate allocations! Scroll to it if you have time here. Overall, Obama is projected with a 32 net delegate lead out of tonight's primaries.

  • In DC, Obama is leading 63% to 27%, which would give him a 6 or 7 delegate lead.
  • In Virginia, the race is pitted at 51% Obama and 34% Clinton, which would result in a 13 delegate difference. At the district-by-district level, most places Clinton is competitive in are even delegate districts, which means it will be difficult for her to invert this trend.
  • In Maryland, finally, Obama leads 53% to 36%, which would result in somewhere close to a 12 delegate lead. Here again, the most competitive districts are even-delegate, so we should not hold our breath as to what happens there.
The question out of tonight is whether Obama can take the lead in the delegate count which includes super delegates, as that could be a very important measure going into the all-important Wisconsin primary.

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