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These are the races you should be watching

Posted: 5:00 AM, Mar 15, 2016
Updated: 2016-03-15 17:32:13-04

CINCINNATI -- It could be an exciting Tuesday night as Ohio’s primary election looks like it will be a nail-biter in both Republican and Democratic presidential races.

Polls are predicting a tight race between Gov. John Kasich, who staked his campaign on winning his home state, and GOP front-runner Donald Trump.

A Quinnipiac University poll released Monday also showed Bernie Sanders is narrowing the gap between himself and Hillary Clinton in Ohio’s Democratic primary.

There are also elections on Tuesday in Florida, Illinois, Missouri and North Carolina that could have a major impact on the presidential race going forward.

And there are plenty of interesting local races to follow. Here’s what to watch for once polls close in Ohio at 7:30 p.m. Keep up with the latest poll numbers all night at WCPO.

Watch where turnout is highest in Ohio. High voter turnout in populous Hamilton, Franklin and Cuyahoga counties may predict a winning night for the establishment candidates - Clinton and Kasich. But strong turnout in distant suburbs and rural areas is more likely to benefit Sanders, and Trump and Cruz on the GOP side, said Jared Kamrass, a political consultant at Rivertown Strategies.

Keep an eye on Florida. Just as Kasich must win Ohio to keep his campaign afloat, Sen. Marco Rubio must win his home state of Florida on Tuesday. But a new Quinnipiac poll shows Trump beating Rubio 2-1 in that Republican primary. If Rubio loses here, he will likely drop from the race and his donors could flock to Kasich, Kamrass said.

Will Sanders pull a Michigan-style upset in Ohio? Sanders surprised everyone with an upset win in the Michigan primary despite polls that showed him losing to Clinton by an average of 21 points. Experts wonder if he can do it again in Ohio. “Ohio is a lot like Michigan … and he could very well duplicate what happened there in Ohio,” said Ohio State University political science professor Paul Beck. Perhaps that’s what prompted Bill Clinton to visit Cincinnati last Saturday.

How many voters want an outsider? Fueled by people’s anger with the status quo, outsider presidential candidates have done well so far in this election cycle. These “anti-establishment” voters generally have higher turnout in the South and much lower in the Midwest and Northeast. If a smaller share of these voters show up on Tuesday, it bodes well for Kasich. If more of them vote, it could be a good night for Trump, Kamrass said.

A tiny race that has made a lot of noise. The race for Hamilton County recorder may be one of the nastiest political fights this year. Retired Court of Common Pleas Judge Norbert Nadel and Cincinnati City Councilman Charlie Winburn are fighting to be the GOP nominee to run an office that oversees real estate documents. The political bickering between the two on social media, during debates and on television ads make it one to watch on primary night.

Will Cincinnati City Councilman PG Sittenfeld carry Hamilton County in his U.S. Senate race? Sittenfeld is the deep underdog in a race with former Ohio governor Ted Strickland to be the Democratic nominee against well-known Sen. Rob Portman in the fall. The scrappy Sittenfeld earned endorsements from the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Akron Beacon Journal, but was snubbed by his hometown Enquirer who endorsed Strickland instead. Sittenfeld was re-elected to City Council in 2013 with the highest margin of votes in city history. Will they turn out for him on Tuesday?

The most popular race is … An astounding 15 Republicans are vying to fill a seat that had been held for 24 years by former House Speaker John Boehner in southwest Ohio's 8th Congressional District. This is one of the most secure Republican strongholds in the state, so whoever wins the primary will almost certainly win the June 7 special election to finish Boehner’s term. The district encompasses West Chester, Fairfield and Hamilton in Butler County as well as all of Preble, Darke, Miami and Clark counties and the southern end of Mercer.

Common Core may decide this race. Tom Brinkman, state representative from Ohio’s 27th House District, is fending off a unique challenge -- from one of his former staunch supporters. Heidi Huber says Brinkman has been ineffective since his 2014 election, particularly on the issue she’s most passionate about: taking Common Core out of the state’s schools, wrote  WCPO contributor Thomas Consolo. This district comprises Cincinnati’s southeast neighborhoods and suburban eastern Hamilton County, including Anderson Township, Indian Hill, Newtown and Terrace Park. It is among the state’s most conservative, so whoever wins the GOP primary is nearly guaranteed victory in November.

Will front-runner Brigid Kelly win in the 31st Ohio House District?  Six Democrats are vying for the Ohio seat held by term-limited Denise Driehaus, but only one of them is the clear party favorite. Driehaus backs Kelly, who also has received support from former governor and U.S. Senate candidate Ted Strickland, Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley, Norwood Mayor Tom Williams, 9th District Ohio Sen. Cecil Thomas, 32nd District State Rep. Christie Bryant Kuhns, two teachers’ unions and the Ohio AFL-CIO, wrote WCPO contributor Greg Paeth.