After months of sitting on the sidelines, Texas finally gets its turn to make its mark on the Republican and Democratic presidential primaries Tuesday — and could have a greater impact than many thought possible.
Experts predict that Texas voters will award Republican Mitt Romney enough delegates to clinch the presidential nomination Tuesday night. That would make it the second presidential election in a row in which the state has played that role: This is where John McCain clinched it in 2008.
This will also be where Democrats continue or halt the less-than-stellar showings that President Barack Obama has had in the past three primaries, against virtually unknown opposition.
Obama and Romney each have opponents on the Texas ballot, and each faces lingering criticism from factions within his respective party even though the general election race has effectively begun.
“Both candidates have elements within their party that are not pleased with their candidacy,” said Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
The question is whether Texans will vote for — or against — someone.
“People are filing protests with these votes,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, an associate political science professor at the University of Houston.
“Some people are frustrated and perhaps are registering this as more or less a protest vote.”
Obama, who wrapped up the Democratic nomination last month, was winning most states by large margins until this month.
Then, voters in Arkansas, Kentucky and West Virginia gave him victories but by much smaller margins, with opponents drawing 40 percent or more.