Welcome to mini-Super Tuesday. Five states hold primaries today, including the two most Hispanic states in the country.
The real drama is in Wisconsin.
That's where Democrats and Republicans are locked in a historic -- and historically bitter -- election fight that's the real opening round of the November General Election fight between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama.
The Wisconsin battle to recall Republican Gov. Scott Walker is a bare-knuckle street fight between conservatives and liberals. It's the first recall against a governor in the state's history (the third in the nation). But it's more than that.
It's a showdown between Republicans and Democrats, super PACs and grassroots, labor unions and union busters. And it's being watched closely by both presidential campaigns, with both trying to gauge its potential significance -- and impact -- in November.
Brought on largely in reaction to Walker's efforts to break the power of unions in the state, Republicans from across the country have seen it as a challenge to conservatives everywhere. They've come racing to back Walker -- with millions of dollars in campaign contributions and on-the-ground support from the party's political stars.
By comparison, today's primaries in California, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota have gotten almost no national attention. They're largely meaningless anyway, at least in the presidential race. Both Romney and Obama have locked their party nominations, so the votes Tuesday make no difference.
So the spotlight, and the money, have gone to Wisconsin.
Walker has raised a record-breaking $31 million in the last year and a half. That's more than three times the previous record (also set by Walker, in advance of his 2010 election). It's also almost eight times as much as the $4 million raised by his opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.
It's showing up on the airwaves. Wisconsin's TV stations have been so flooded with political money that hardly a commercial break goes by without a campaign ad.
As NPR's national political correspondent Mara Liasson put it over the weekend: "This is going to be seen as a test case for the power and clout of the super PACs. Walker's raised tremendous amounts of outside money, which he's allowed to do under the law," she says. "So if he wins, I think the message will be the super PACs have a tremendous advantage.
"If he loses, I think will mean even more. I think it will be a huge boost to the Democrats, to the labor movement, and it'll mean that the super PACs can't buy everything."
Walker also has benefitted from campaign appearances by rising GOP stars South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
In response, the Democrats have brought out what is perhaps their biggest gun for Barrett, former President Bill Clinton.
Most polls show Walker leading, although narrowly. Obama, too. But with some 60 to 65 percent of Wisconsin voters expected to turn out today, the results will mean much more than just whether Walker wins or loses. Republicans and Democrats alike will view the outcome as a referendum, and a sign that Obama -- who won the state handily in 2008 -- could lose Wisconsin in November.
Source: Terra/Carlos Harrison