Among the more than 20 states holding primaries or caucuses on Tuesday, New York and New Jersey, in the northeastern United States have large numbers of delegates the candidates need to win their party nominations. VOA's Margaret Besheer reports from our New York bureau, on what to watch for on Super Tuesday.
Republican and Democratic voters will hit the polls Tuesday in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts. But New York and New Jersey, with their 339 Democratic delegates and 153 Republican delegates at stake, are the prime focus of the candidates and political observers.
Maurice Carroll, the director of Quinnipiac University's Polling Institute in Hamden, Connecticut has been tracking the candidates. He says until about a week ago, Democratic Party candidate Senator Hillary Clinton, who represents New York State, was solidly ahead of rival Senator Barack Obama in polls. But he notes that Obama's numbers have been on the rise.
"There is a lot of excitement, a lot of surge, going for Obama, mostly among young people. Can that overcome those [Clinton's] New York and New Jersey leads? [It is] hard to say. Look what happened in Iowa a couple of weeks ago, out of nowhere Obama came out and won the thing," said Carroll.
On the Republican side, Senator John McCain is very strong in the northeast, leading former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. Columbia University Political Science professor Robert Shapiro predicts McCain could all but win the Republican nomination on Super Tuesday.
"It looks as though McCain is poised to pull away and perhaps wrap things up on February 5. His recent wins have been very impressive," said Shapiro.
McCain's strong position received a boost last week when former New York City Mayor Rudy Guiliani withdrew from the race and endorsed the Arizona senator.
For the Republican candidates on the ballot in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, it is "winner take all", meaning the candidate with the largest percentage of the vote will win all the state's republican delegates. This is likely to be a boost for McCain who is favored in these states.
Voters in the northeast, as elsewhere in the nation, are concerned about the economy, healthcare, education and the war in Iraq. The war on terror is especially on the minds of voters in New York and New Jersey, which were deeply affected by the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Analysts expect near-record turnout for Super Tuesday. Professor Sharyn O'Halloran, also of Columbia University's political science department, says voters are very energized because this is the first time a woman and an African American have a real chance at the presidency.
"That is the historic thing here that we finally have serious contention from a woman and an African American in a major political party in the race for the presidency. Either way you go, the 2008 election is going to be a historic election," said O'Halloran.
In the northeast on Tuesday, Senator Clinton is expected to do well among women voters and Hispanics, but could lose some of her African American supporters to Senator Obama. Professor Shapiro says other non-white voters in this region could have a significant impact.
"The one interesting thing to watch in this region would be how other non-white voting groups vote - Latinos, Asian- Americans - in this region. Especially if it is close those groups could conceivably be swing voters," added Shapiro.
While excitement is high in this region for the current contenders, there remains one question lingering on the minds of many, especially in New York, and that is whether the city's mayor, billionaire businessman Michael Bloomberg, will launch a late bid for the presidency as an independent candidate.
"Political history says no, the political landscape says no, the American political system says no, but a billion dollars says yes, he has got a shot," said Maurice Carroll of Quinnipiac University.
Analysts say Bloomberg is likely to get into the race only if he thinks he can win it, not to be a spoiler for one of the other candidates. But until that happens, all eyes are on the current contenders.