- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 9, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

For a change, at least some of this region’s primaries should figure significantly in a presidential election. This area’s Democrats — including those in the oft-overlooked District of Columbia — are right in the thick of things. And while the same may not be true for Republicans after Mitt Romney’s Thursday campaign suspension, a great many area voters who deemed themselves unimportant in previous cycles cannot say the same this time around.

It happened because the Feb. 5 “Super Tuesday” Democratic contests left the two remaining contenders within 79 delegates of one another: 872 for Hillary Clinton and 793 for Barack Obama. As of midweek, matters were sufficiently uncertain amid delegate head-counting that Mr. Obama was claiming a nationwide “Super Tuesday” victory. This climate ensures that the District of Columbia’s 37 Democratic delegates, Maryland’s 99 and Virginia’s 103 are real prizes to be fought over on Feb. 12.

At present, Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton — neck-and-neck nationally — will compete down to the wire for Virginia, and the District and Maryland are also by no means assured. Mr. Obama is presumed to have a demographic edge in the District and Maryland on account of his appeal in prior contests to African-Americans and to affluent whites. But Mrs. Clinton has maintained a clear fund-raising advantage in all three jurisdictions, outraising Mr. Obama $4.7-$3.2 million in the District, $3.3-$2.5 million in Maryland and $2.8-$1.7 million in Virginia. Up-to-date polling data is scarce because most campaigns and pollsters have devoted the lion’s share of recent energy to “Super Tuesday” states such as New York and California. But in January, polls showed Mr. Obama ahead slightly in Maryland and Virginia.

In lieu of polls, for the District, one rough guide could be the January Democratic delegate selection caucuses, which revealed a 519-271 edge among would-be delegates for Mr. Obama.

In other words, at least on the Democratic side, with so many election-watchers now calling next week’s contests here pivotal, no area voter has reason to claim that his or her vote this primary season doesn’t matter.

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