Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia host Republican primaries Tuesday, with Mitt Romney poised to perform well in all three and increase his delegate lead. Here are some of the key factors to watch as the exit polls roll in after 5 p.m. Tune in to @postpolls on twitter and the Post’s live blog for live exit poll analysis throughout the night!
Blue state Republicans — Roughly half of voters in southern Republican strongholds complained that Mitt Romney is not conservative enough on the issues. But Republicans in Tuesday’s states — all of which Obama won by double digits in the 2008 general election — may see Romney as more in line with their views. So far, fewer Republicans in states that backed Obama four years ago have said Romney was not conservative enough.
Wisconsin’s Republican electorate could tilt even more toward the middle than in 2008, as its open primary rules allow Democrats and independents to participate. In 2008, the Democratic nomination race was much more competitive, drawing more than twice the turnout as the Republican contest. This year, swing voters may choose to weigh in on Republicans instead.
The Badger State may be an important general election state this fall. While Obama won by a big margin in Wisconsin in 2008, John Kerry and Al Gore won by razor thin margins in 2004 and 2000. Maryland and D.C., on the other hand, will almost certainly back Obama in November.
Evangelicals less dominant — Evangelical Christians have made up a majority of Republican voters across primary contests this year, but they play a much smaller role in Wisconsin and Maryland. Fewer than four in 10 voters in each state’s 2008 primary identified as a born-again or evangelical Christians. Romney has performed stronger in states where evangelicals are less dominant, winning every state where they make up less than half of Republican voters (depicted quite clearly by this interactive chart).
Handicapping D.C. — There will be no exit poll Tuesday night in the District of Columbia, but Santorum faces an insurmountable obstacle in winning the contest: he’s not on the ballot. With just under 6,000 votes cast that year, Ron Paul or Newt Gingrich could make a strong showing against Romney. In 2008, D.C. Republicans favored John McCain over Mike Huckabee by a whopping 68 to 17 percent margin.
Clarification: A previous version of this post did not mention that Santorum is not on the D.C. ballot.