- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Next week’s Potomac primaries in the District, Maryland and Virginia are emerging as battlegrounds, and some voters are so excited they mistakenly showed up at the polls yesterday.

“I think both parties look at Virginia as a state that is in play,” said Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, a Democrat who endorsed Sen. Barack Obama.

Across the Potomac River, D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty said the city’s sudden relevance in the presidential race highlights the citizens’ lack of representation in Congress.

“In what appears to be a close election year, the primary next Tuesday gives residents of the District of Columbia a critical voice in national politics, a right which is unfortunately denied them in the House and the Senate,” said Mr. Fenty, a Democrat who also endorsed Mr. Obama.

More than 200 delegates are at stake Tuesday in the Potomac primaries for Democratic hopefuls Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Mr. Obama, of Illinois, who are running neck and neck for the nomination.

Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama likely will concentrate their resources in Northern Virginia, which increasingly votes Democratic and was key to Sen. Jim Webb’s defeat of incumbent Sen. George Allen, a Republican.

“Once it became very clear that the camp was going to progress beyond Feb. 5, we began to gear up,” Clinton campaign spokesman Mo Elleithee said, adding that all three jurisdictions can expect to see Mrs. Clinton in coming days.

Republicans have 119 delegates up for grabs as Sen. John McCain of Arizona closes in on the nomination and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney looks for a win to break the front-runner’s momentum.

Mr. McCain hopes to benefit from his popularity among the large veteran communities in Maryland and Virginia, and build on anticipated wins in the Super Tuesday primaries yesterday.

“The momentum, particularly in a consolidated primary calendar, is critical,” McCain campaign spokesman B.J. Boling said.

Mr. Romney appears to be concentrating his campaign visits on Virginia, scheduling just one stop in Maryland at a fundraiser dinner Thursday for the Baltimore County Republican Party.

“These are important contests that are next up on the calendar,” said Kevin Madden, spokesman for the Romney campaign. “We’re going to be hard at work consolidating the support of conservatives and other grass-roots Republicans within the party. We’re going to keep building on our momentum. Our efforts in the Potomac region will be an important part of that outreach.”

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, endorsed Mrs. Clinton.

In Virginia yesterday, about 700 people showed up at polling places expecting to vote and called election officials to complain that they couldn’t vote.

In the District, about 50 people called the city’s elections board and wanted to know why their polling places were closed yesterday, said Bill O’Field, spokesman for the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics.

“We think the media’s coverage of Super Tuesday confused some of the voters,” Mr. O’Field said. He added that the elections board mailed notices of the primaries to residents who qualified to vote under the city’s closed primary system.

Donna Duncan, elections management director for the Maryland State Board of Elections, said she hadn’t heard reports of voters showing up at polling places.

Mrs. Clinton scheduled a rally tomorrow in Arlington, where she based her national campaign headquarters. She also will attend the Virginia Democratic Party’s annual fundraiser, Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, on Saturday in Richmond.

She agreed to a local TV debate in the District and challenged Mr. Obama to accept the invitation.

Mr. Obama is expected to fare well in the District, which is more than 56 percent black.

In Virginia, Mr. Kaine said Democrats’ success in recent statewide races — his 2005 win sandwiched between Gov. Mark R. Warner’s election in 2001 and Mr. Webb’s election to the Senate last year — reflect Democrats’ growing clout in Virginia.

Mr. Kaine attributed the gains to the party’s ability to unify independents — something Mr. Obama can do. But attracting independent voters is also a strength for Mr. McCain.

Virginia does not require voters to register by political party. Voters decide at the polls whether to participate in the Republican or Democratic primary.

Mr. Obama enjoys significant support from Mr. Kaine, a fellow Harvard Law School graduate who serves as co-chairman of the national campaign.

Mrs. Clinton, however, has struggled to secure endorsements from such well-known political figures in Virginia.

Mrs. Clinton anticipated the contest to become a drawn-out “race for delegates” that would include states such as Maryland that often get passed by, Mr. Elleithee said.

The Potomac primaries follow nominating contests Saturday in Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, Washington and the Virgin Islands.

Christina Bellantoni contributed to this report, which is based in part on wire service reports.

POTOMAC PRIMARY

MARYLAND

Delegates: 99 Democrat; 37 Republican

Population: 5,615,727

Democrats: 55.2 percent

Republican: 28.3 percent

Female: 51.6 percent

Male: 48.4 percent

White: 63.6 percent

White non-Hispanic: 58.4 percent

Black: 29.5 percent

Hispanic: 6 percent

VIRGINIA

Delegates: 101 Democrat; 63 Republican

Population: 7,642,884

*State does not register voters by party

Female: 50.8 percent

Male: 49.2 percent

White: 73.3 percent

White non-Hispanic: 67.7 percent

Black: 19.9 percent

Hispanic: 6.3 percent

WASHINGTON, D.C.

Delegates: 37 Democrat; 19 Republican

Population: 581,530

Democrats: 74.1 percent

Republicans: 7.56 percent

Female: 53.1 percent

Male: 46.9 percent

White: 38.4 percent

White non-Hispanic: 31.7 percent

Black: 56.5 percent

Hispanic: 8.2 percent

Sources: U.S. census; state boards of elections in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia

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