Today's the big day for Ohio and Texas as voters in both states head to the polls in primary contests that could determine the future of Hillary Clinton's White House aspirations. In the Lone Star State, things could get especially interesting on the Democratic side thanks to a complex voting system dubbed the "Texas Two-Step."
While most states have either a primary or a caucus, Texas today holds both. After polls close in precincts across Texas, the caucuses (or "precinct conventions") will begin at those same locations. Voters who cast ballots in the primary can return to participate in the caucuses.
On the Republican side, it's simple. Primary results determine who receives delegates, so the caucuses decide only which state GOP party activists will attend the state convention. The state has 137 Republican delegates, of which 96 are selected by congressional district. The other 41 delegates are delegates at-large, awarded based on the statewide vote.
On the Democratic side, it's murky. Caucus-goers start the evening by signing in and declaring their preference for a presidential candidate. After a chairperson is elected, delegates are awarded proportionally based on the number of people present who support each candidate. For example, if there are 100 people present and 75 support Clinton while 25 support Obama, then Clinton will receive 75 percent of the delegates and Obama 25 percent-regardless of the outcome of the primary vote in the precinct.
Individuals are then elected to those delegate positions to represent the precincts at the March 29 county convention. This same process is repeated at the county convention to determine representatives for the state convention. In the end, there are 228 Democratic delegates who will attend the national convention in August in Denver, of which 193 are pledged and 35 are super delegates. Of the pledged delegates, 126 are allocated proportionally based on primary results; the other 67 pledged delegates are determined at the state convention.
Because Texas Democrats essentially can vote twice-once in the primary and once during the caucus-the candidate with the best grass-roots campaign machine is likely to end up on top. That's because in addition to votes accumulated during the primary, the candidate who mobilizes the most supporters to attend the precinct caucuses will end up with more representation at the county convention, which in turn means that candidate will also have better representation at the state level and collect a larger share of the remaining delegates.
So what does this all mean for the race between Clinton and Obama? For one, it's entirely possible that one of them could walk away with the popular vote statewide and yet in the end not earn the most delegates.
In addition, since Texas and Ohio are open primaries where a registered voter can participate in either the Democratic or Republican primary, it's possible that Republican voters may cross party lines and vote for Clinton in order to keep the battle going within the Democratic Party. That's just what conservative radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh urges Republican voters to do.
"This is the presidency of the United States you're talking about," Limbaugh said during a Feb. 29 interview on "The O'Reilly Factor." "I want our party to win. I want the Democrats to lose. They're in the midst of tearing themselves apart right now. It is fascinating to watch, and it's all going to stop if Hillary loses.
"So yes, I'm asking to cross over and, if they can stomach it-I know it's a difficult thing to do to vote for a Clinton-but it will sustain this soap opera, and it's something I think we need. It would be fun, too."
Between crossover voters, precinct caucuses and primary votes, it could be a long day in the Lone Star State, and you'll want to stay tuned.