Five Takeaways For Tuesday’s Primary Battles

May 8, 2012 6:00am

The GOP may have their presumptive nominee, but Tuesday’s voting contests will still hold important clues to the overall outlook for the GOP–and in Wisconsin for the both parties– in the months ahead.

Presidential primary contests will take place today in Indiana, West Virginia and North Carolina. Primaries in West Virginia and North Carolina could indicate Romney’s support level in a geographic region he has previously failed to carry.

There are also a slew of important races further down the ticket on Tuesday, with Indiana holding a closely watched Senate primary, Wisconsin holding their Democratic primary for their recall election, and North Carolina’s ballot including a same-sex marriage referendum.

Here’s a look at the top five things to watch out for:

1.) Indiana Senate.

It’s likely that the presidential primary will be the secondary motivation for many Indiana voters on Tuesday. The primary battle between six-term incumbent Richard Lugar and Indiana state treasurer Richard Mourdock is sure to be a driving force for Hoosier voters.

As ABC’s Chris Good reports, lots of money has been spent by both candidates, and the larger meaning of the results will surely be debated in the following days and weeks. Would a  Lugar loss be the sign of the continued strength of the Tea Party? Would a Lugar victory be a sign of the end of the weakening strength of the Tea Party? Will Democrats have a good chance to pick up a seat there in the fall?

The latest polling showed Lugar trailing Mourdock by double digits, though Mourdock’s lead decreased slightly when “leaners”–voters who said they might change their mind before Tuesday–were factored out.

2.) Wisconsin’s Democratic Primary.

Wisconsin’s presidential primary may have come and gone but there’s another race in Wisconsin that’s garnering most of the public’s attention–the recall election of Republican Gov. Scott Walker. On Tuesday voters will take to the polls to select the Democratic nominee to face off against Walker in the June 5 recall. Recent polls showed Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett with a strong lead over former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk. Polls also showed Barrett, who ran against Walker for governor in 2010, in a dead heat with Walker. Falk trails Walker in the polls.

Falk has the majority of the union support–an important group in a contest which was triggered in large part because of Walker’s actions on collective bargaining rights–but Barrett is seen as the establishment favorite. Barrett enjoys higher name recognition, polls show, and he has the support of prominent Democrats in the state like Herb Kohl, the state’s senior senator.

3.) North Carolina’s Same-Sex Marriage Amendment.

A proposed constitutional amendment is up for a vote in North Carolina. The proposed legislation decrees that “marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state.” If passed, this amendment- Amendment One- would not only out law same-sex marriage in the state (same-sex marriage is not currently legal in NC),  it would ban any other legal union besides marriage for all couples- gay and straight. Polling shows the legislation is likely to pass.

4.) Romney’s performance in North Carolina, West Virginia.

The one region of the country which has alluded Romney during the primary cycle is the South. The presumptive GOP nominee has claimed victories in the northeast, the West, the Midwest, but he has yet to claim victory in a southern state, besides Virginia where several of his competitors failed to qualify for the ballot. With Gingrich and Santorum both gone from the race, Romney will carry North Carolina and West Virginia on Tuesday, but the question remains as to how much of the vote he’ll actually receive.

5.) Those delegate numbers.

Romney has 856 delegates so far, ABC News projects, a little less than 300 shy of the magic 1,144 a candidate needs to officially win the GOP’s nomination. In Tuesday’s contests 132 total delegates are at stake, each of which will be doled out proportionally, meaning it is mathematically possible for Romney to fall short of claiming each and every delegate.

Even if Romney does manage to pick up every delegate in Tuesday’s contest, he will still end the night with only 988 delegates. Depending on Tuesday’s performance- and his performance in upcoming states like Arkansas, Kentucky and Oregon- the earliest Romney could hit 1,144 is by the Texas primary, on May 29.

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