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Obama's beer and wine coalition

  • Story Highlights
  • Four states -- Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island, Vermont -- hold primaries Tuesday
  • Republican McCain could get enough votes to force all other party rivals out
  • Democrats have no clear front-runner -- but heavy losses could see Clinton quit
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By CNN's Jonathan Mann
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This evening, Tuesday March 4, will be important in American politics, with one crucial question: Champagne, wine or beer? A look at what people are drinking will tell you most of what you need to know.

Before the drinking starts, Democrats and Republicans will be voting with the prospect of finally deciding who their party's nominees for the presidency will be.

Both of the parties may be able to end their internal battles and mark the start of the real presidential election campaign, the battle against each other.

Why is today the day?

Four states go to the polls - Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island and Vermont. Together they offer hundreds of delegates to the party conventions that will actually choose the Democrat and Republican nominees.

Republican John McCain is so far ahead in his party's delegate count that he's almost certain to get the last ones he needs.

When that happens, his only remaining rival, Mike Huckabee, will be under enormous pressure to quit and help the party move on to the real election.

This is a difficult year for the Republicans to win the presidency - with two wars and a looming recession, the incumbent is an unpopular Republican that many Americans blame for the mess.

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But after the voting is done today, they will almost certainly have set themselves up with a colorful, popular candidate who really could win the White House.

That's when they'll break out the bubbly. (Huckabee may not feel like celebrating, but he's a Baptist preacher, so he doesn't drink alcohol anyway.)

When it comes to today's outcome, the Democrats are in exactly the opposite situation. That's why you want to see what they're serving at the bar.

They don't have a clear front-runner. Barack Obama is barely ahead of Hillary Clinton in the delegate count.The voting system that the Democrats use makes it hard for either of them to get a significant lead. And the party itself is divided.

Analysts have broken down the division by gender, by race, by age, and other obvious measures. But they also look, only slightly less seriously, at what people are drinking.

Clinton supporters have been considered the beer drinkers: working-class voters who make up the less educated, less affluent base of the party's support. They're people who want politicians to protect their jobs, their families and their future.

Obama supporters have been considered the wine drinkers: the more educated, more affluent elements of the party, people who want bold vision and even a bit of poetry in their politics.

But Obama is making the bartender busy by creating a beer/wine coalition; urban and suburban voters, blacks and whites, union members and university students.

If he does that today, he'll do very well, extending a winning streak that is already 11 states long.

The polls suggest it could happen. Clinton had early leads but they have disappeared in three of the four states. Without big surprise victories today, she'll be under enormous pressure to quit.

If she does, the Democrats will have an end to their internal contest and a chance to start taking on the Republicans. The beer and wine drinkers will have champagne in their glasses.

If she wins or refuses to quit, the race in the party will go on, for weeks or even months. In that case, forget the drinks. It's strong coffee all around. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

All About John McCainBarack ObamaHillary ClintonMike HuckabeeRepublican PartyDemocratic Party

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