RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginians head to the polls Tuesday for the presidential primary in what some officials are expecting to be record numbers.
The state is one of a dozen Super Tuesday contests whose outcomes could go a long way in determining each party’s eventual winner.
John Whitbeck, chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, said GOP voters are fired up to get to the polls.
“The evidence is clear that we’re looking at a record turnout in Virginia,” he said.
The limited polling available in Virginia shows Donald Trump ahead in the Republican primary and Hillary Clinton leading in the Democratic race.
Susan Swecker, chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Virginia, said she expects turnout on the Democratic side to be “robust,” but isn’t sure whether it will be record setting. She noted that there are only two candidates running for the Democratic side, Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, compared with five GOP candidates.
Whoever wins Virginia is also likely to bolster their case that they can do well in the general election, as the Old Dominion has a diverse electorate and is expected to be a pivotal swing state.
“Virginia is America in miniature,” said Stephen Farnsworth, a political science professor at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg. “A win here means more than a win in a lot of other states.”
Virtually every candidate in both parties made at least one stop in Virginia in the run-up to the primary.
Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio held a four-stop tour across the state Sunday and has recently consolidated a large amount of the state GOP establishment’s support.
Trump was at Virginia Beach’s Regent University last week and held a rally Monday at Radford University in southwest Virginia, home to a large number of blue-collar voters more likely to support him.
Clinton spoke Monday in northern Virginia, home to wealthier, more liberal voters, and in Hampton Roads, which has a high concentration of African-American voters.
The Clinton campaign has focused on courting black voters in Virginia, lining up support from most African-American state lawmakers. And Gov. Terry McAuliffe is a longtime family friend and confidante.
The Sanders campaign has shown momentum in Virginia. A rally he held in Norfolk drew thousands.
Rubio and a super PAC supporting him have recently purchased more than $400,000 of airtime in Virginia’s four biggest TV markets, according to the nonprofit Virginia Public Access Project. Clinton’s campaign has bought more than $360,000.
Trump has made small TV ad buys across the state. A super PAC devoted to attacking Trump announced Friday that it is running radio ads attacking him in parts of central Virginia.
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