If the conventional wisdom (and assorted state polling) holds on Tuesday, and Barack Obama wins North Carolina and Hillary Clinton wins Indiana, then we wake up on Wednesday looking at four more weeks of campaigning, six more primaries and ramped up pressure on superdelegates to start making their endorsements public.
In other words, not much will have changed from the last four weeks. Has anyone started looking into whether there are direct flights from San Juan, Puerto Rico to Billings, MT or Sioux Falls, SD?
In perhaps their sharpest policy disagreement on the campaign trail, the two Democratic candidates have been clashing over what to do about rising gas prices. Clinton supports a freeze on the gas tax during summer months (as does John McCain) while Obama continues to speak out strongly against the position.
Whether voters agree with Clinton that Obama doesn't get it on this issue and isn't offering solutions, or if they agree with Obama that the proposal is just a political "stunt," could determine what has been a tight and contentious Indiana primary battle.
Indiana may be a true toss up primary, with demographics favorable to both Clinton and Obama. The state is a unique patchwork mix that has areas that resemble Illinois, Ohio, and Kentucky. There are many rural, blue collar regions as well as urban, industrial regions with large African-American populations.
Neither candidate has a clear advantage but the overall demographics in the state may favor Clinton, because of how well she has performed with blue-collar, lower-income voters in previous states. Obama will need strong turnout and support in his strongholds (northern and central Indiana urban areas) in order to offset Clinton's support in large swaths of the southern part of the state.
The importance of North Carolina in shaping the overall picture of the Democratic race going forward cannot be overstated. This is the first state that Obama has been expected to win since the second round of controversy surrounding his former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
For the first time since the South Carolina primary nearly four months ago, Obama goes into a presidential contest facing more heat than Clinton.
North Carolina, which has a large number of black voters, is the kind of place the Democratic frontrunner is expected to win. Roughly one-third of the Democratic electorate is expected to be African American. Statewide polls show the Illinois senator leading Clinton, but both campaigns seem to think the race has tightened a bit this week.
Other things to look for on Tuesday:
1. Turnout in Indiana – How big and where is it? The northwestern corner of the state is the most Democratic – around 20-25 percent of the total Democratic votes on Tuesday could come from this region. This area also has a large African-American population, in cities like Gary and South Bend. In the 1st Congressional District, 18 percent of eligible voters are African-American, compared to just eight percent statewide. Obama has overwhelmingly won African-American voters in primaries so far and as the senator from neighboring Illinois, he enjoys high name recognition in the northwestern corner of the state because it is in the Chicago media market.
Clinton will look to the Ohio River Valley and southern Indiana for her strong support from rural and blue-collar voters. These are the voters that she been overwhelmingly winning in states like Ohio and Pennsylvania. Cities like Evansville and New Albany could be Clinton strongholds and she is hammering home her message on the economy, jobs and gas prices to rev up these voters.
2. An 11th hour endorsement from John and/or Elizabeth Edwards. Never say never, Mrs. Edwards said last week, but would their endorsement move voters, especially so late in the game?
3. That said…do any endorsements matter on voting days? Clinton has popular Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh on her side and added North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley to her team last week. Bayh's endorsement translates into support and resources on the ground and as one longtime Indiana political watcher put it, "You can never bet against the Bayh organization."
4. Superdelegates Last week the endorsements started flowing after Clinton won the Pennsylvania primary. Obama has picked up at least two today and there are still five uncommitteds in North Carolina and four uncommitteds in Indiana that could come off of the fence based on Tuesday's results.
On the campaign front. . .
-- Events TBA
-- 6:30 pm ET: Attends election night event with voters, Indianapolis, IN
As for the Republicans. . .
-- 10:00 am ET: Delivers speech to voters at event, Winston-Salem, NC
At the White House and Beyond. . .
-- 9:45 am ET: Delivers remarks commemorating Military Spouse Day, Washington, DC
-- 2:20 pm ET: Meets with the President of Panama, Washington, DC
POLITICAL NEWS STORIES ON ABCNEWS.COM
ABC News' Rick Klein and Sarah Amos: Bill Clinton's Small-Town Success LINK
ABC News' Jake Tapper: Trouble in River City LINK
ABC News' Ron Claiborne: McCain Prepares for Fall Fight as Clinton, Obama Battle On LINK
ABC News' Jake Tapper: PETA Writes to Clinton About Eight Belles LINK
ABC News' Jake Tapper: Bill Clinton on Gas Taxes: He Raised 'Em in '93, then Opposed a "Vacation" in 2000 LINK
ABC News' Jake Tapper: Clinton Campaign: "Our Supporters Aren't the Grubbers" LINK
ABC News' Marcus Baram: Bush's Last Year: Lame Duck? LINK
ABC News' Jake Tapper: What Are Clinton and Obama's Positions on Lifting the Consent Decree on the Teamsters? LINK
ABC News' Eloise Harper and Sunlen Miller: Clinton and Obama Bounce Between NC and Indiana LINK
ABC News' Jake Tapper: Has Obama's Superdelegate Momentum Slowed? LINK
ABC News' Jake Tapper: Post-War Vet Suicides May Exceed Combat Deaths LINK
POLITICAL VIDEO ON ABCNEWS.COM
Back and Forth From IN to NC
Clinton and Obama stump in both states appealing to voters before primary day. LINK
Tom Hanks: I Support Barack Obama
The actor jokes about his support for the senator in an online video. LINK
First Lady Urges Burma to Accept Aid
First Lady Laura Bush offers international aid to Burma after cyclone devastates region. LINK
McCain Aligns GOP with Hispanic Issues
"Everything about our Hispanic voters is tailor-made to the Republican message." LINK
Diane Sawyer Speaks With Obama
Senator talks about the issues affecting voters in the primaries. LINK
Clinton Talks With Diane Sawyer
On the eve of important primaries, senator makes her last push for votes. LINK
The History of the National Mall
A look back at the origins of this special site. LINK
High Hopes for Primaries
The Clinton campaign hopes for a "game-changer" in Indiana and North Carolina. LINK
What Will It Take?
A look at Hillary Clinton's odds in the upcoming primaries. LINK
Secretary of State in the Middle East
Rice attempts to move Israeli and Palestinian leaders toward a peace deal. LINK
Momentum and Math on the Trail
George analyzes Clinton's momentum and Obama's math before Indiana's primary. LINK
Hillary Clinton on the Consent Decree
Sen. Clinton: "You can't go around dragging the ball and chain of the past." LINK
Barack Obama on the Consent Decree
Sen. Obama explains his stance on lifting the consent decree on the Teamsters. LINK