WASHINGTON — Michigan is the crown jewel Tuesday as voters in four states deliver verdicts on the presidential campaign. It's the first big industrial state to weigh in, and should offer clues about how the candidates will play in important Midwest contests to come. But it will be Wednesday on the East Coast before the night's final prize gets awarded in Hawaii.
What to watch for on Tuesday night:
The night's first polls close in Mississippi at 8 p.m. EST, with primary results for both parties. Michigan's primary results for both parties follow at 9. Both of those states will have exit poll data to poke through, helping to explain who voted for whom and why. Idaho's Republican-only primary closes at 11 p.m., and Hawaii's GOP caucuses close at 1 a.m. Results from Democrats living abroad also will filter in at some point. In all, there are 150 GOP delegates at stake, and 179 Democratic delegates to be doled out.
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump both are favored. But keep an eye on the winners' margins of victory: That's what determines the allocation of delegates, which is key at this point in the campaign. Both front-runners are trying to pad their delegate leads to make their claims on the nomination seem inevitable.
The Michigan results may reveal how successful Bernie Sanders was in fighting back against Clinton's late criticism of him for opposing a 2009 bill that provided billions to rescue the auto industry. The Vermont senator is stressing that he opposed the provision because it was part of a large bailout package for Wall Street. He said he supported an earlier, separate bill to aid the carmakers.
Check out the post-election speeches by Clinton and Trump to see if they're still focusing on their primary election opponents or pivoting toward an anticipated general-election matchup. In recent days, both have started to pay more attention to one another. And Clinton on election eve served notice that she hopes Sanders will support her if she wins the nomination, "the way I supported President Obama when I dropped out." Hint, hint.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a distant fourth in the GOP delegate chase, has spent significant time in Michigan and is hoping to get a big boost from his neighboring state. He's been moving up in recent Michigan polls, but it's always wise to play down expectations. So when reporters asked on Monday if he needed to finish in the top 2 in Michigan, Kasich responded: "I don't feel like I have to do anything except breathe and take care of my family."
The exit polls from Michigan and Mississippi will offer clues about whether Sanders is making any progress in expanding support beyond his devoted followers in the under-30 crowd, and making any inroads in the overwhelming support that Clinton has enjoyed with black voters. Without doing both of those, he'll have a hard time catching up to Clinton in the delegate chase.
Marco Rubio, struggling to stay in the GOP game, has made recent campaign appearances in Idaho and Michigan, and would love to get a little buzz there. But his heart already is in Florida, where early voting is under way for the March 15 winner-take-all primary. With just two wins in 20 elections so far, the Florida senator has linked his survival to a victory in Florida.
With Rubio lagging, more Republicans may be looking to Cruz as a strong alternative to Trump. The Texas senator added last-minute appearances Monday in Mississippi and Michigan, and has campaigned recently in Idaho. The vote margins should provide more clues about whether the anti-Trump crowd is coalescing around Cruz.
New delegate allocations will trickle out over the course of the night. Here's where the count stood heading into Tuesday's voting: For the Democrats, Clinton 1,134 and Sanders 499, including superdelegates, with 2,383 delegates needed to win. For the Republicans, Trump 384, Cruz 300, Rubio 151 delegates and Kasich 37, with 1,237 delegates needed to win the GOP nomination.
AP writers Steven Ohlemacher and Hope Yen in Washington and David Eggert in Lansing contributed to this report.
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