Bernie SandersBernie SandersOvernight Energy: Trump set to sign offshore drilling order Meghan McCain: Obama 'a dirty capitalist like the rest of us' Dems might begin again with Kamala Harris and California MORE is within striking distance of Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonTrump threatens to scrap 'horrible' South Korea trade deal New science-fiction book set in future where Clinton won Overnight Cybersecurity: Anticipation builds for Trump cyber order | House panel refers Clinton IT contractor for prosecution | Pentagon warned Flynn about foreign payments MORE in three of the five states hosting contests on Tuesday.
The tightening polls suggest the presidential hopeful has another opportunity to upend the Democratic race after his upset win last week in Michigan.
It’s possible Clinton could still win more delegates even if Sanders wins all three states, by keeping the margin close and winning big in Florida and North Carolina. But the loss of Ohio, in particular, would raise questions about her candidacy. It would also give Sanders first-place finishes in seven of the last 11 contests.
Clinton enters Tuesday with a lead of over 200 pledged delegates, a gap that will be very difficult for Sanders to close. Her lead jumps to more than 600 delegates when superdelegates — the party appointees who can support any candidate prior to the party convention — are included.
On the GOP side, Tuesday could mark the end of the line for Florida Sen. Marco RubioMarco RubioOvernight Defense: Commander calls North Korea crisis 'worst' he's seen | Trump signs VA order | Dems push Trump to fill national security posts What’s with Trump’s spelling mistakes? Boeing must be stopped from doing business with Iran MORE and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
Both are desperately seeking to block real estate mogul Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump: I was 'psyched to terminate' NAFTA Trump: 'Major, major' conflict with North Korea possible Cohn: People 'wasting time' calling for Trump's tax returns MORE from claiming victory in the winner-take-all contests in their home states.
Rubio trails Trump badly in the race for Florida’s 99 GOP delegates, while Kasich is running even with the billionaire for the 66 delegates up for grabs in Ohio.
If Trump wins both states, he’ll be slightly more than halfway to the delegates needed to win the nomination outright and avoid a contested convention.
Here’s a look at how things are shaping up in the five states where voters will cast ballots Tuesday:
The Sunshine State is the biggest delegate prize of the day.
Florida will play a critical role in the GOP primary, with all 99 of the state’s Republican delegates going to the winner, whether the race is determined by one or 1 million votes.
Polls show Trump leading by between 17 and 24 points in the last eight surveys. The race could be called as soon as 8 p.m., when the last polls close.
The big question of the night is whether Rubio will drop out of the race if he doesn’t finish first.
There is still some rationale for Rubio’s candidacy; some believe the best way to block Trump from taking the nomination is for the remaining three candidates to continue collecting delegates in an effort to force a contested convention.
But it will be hard for the senator to justify staying in after another poor showing, especially in his home state.
The race is an even bigger blowout on the Democratic side, where Clinton leads by nearly 30 points in the RealClearPolitics (RCP) average. The racially diverse and older electorate should boost Clinton to an easy victory there.
The 214 pledged delegates up for grabs in Democratic race will be allocated proportionally.
The Buckeye State will be the closest-watched state on both sides.
The Democratic race, where the 143 pledged delegates will be awarded proportionately, is much closer than it was only a few weeks ago.
Several polls released earlier this month found Clinton leading by 20 points or more. Her lead in the RCP average is presently at 8.3 points.
Ohio borders Michigan, where Sanders managed a huge upset only one week ago. He entered that race trailing by more than 20 points but stunned the political world with a victory no one saw coming.
The Sanders campaign believes his message on trade is resonating with Rust Belt voters. But Clinton is still the favorite in Ohio, where she’s had Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod BrownDems crowd primaries to challenge GOP reps Battle begins over Wall Street rules Congress nears deal on help for miners MORE (D-Ohio), a well-regarded progressive, campaigning on her behalf.
Sanders, however, won a big victory on Friday, when a judge ruled that 17-year-olds who turn 18 by the Nov. 8 general election are eligible to vote in the state’s primary.
On the Republican side, all 66 delegates will go to the first-place finisher.
Trump and Kasich are running neck and neck in the polls, with two recent surveys showing the candidates locked in a tie. Kasich leads in the RCP average by 3.2 points.
The Ohio governor has said he’ll drop out of the race if he loses at home. He has campaigned heavily in the state, and on Monday, he got a late assist on the trail from 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney.
But Trump is also making a late push, canceling a rally in Florida to spend the final hours before election day in the Buckeye State. If the celebrity businessman can squeeze out a victory here and couple it with a first-place finish in Florida, it will be a tremendous blow to the forces seeking to block him from the nomination.
On the Democratic side, Clinton is once again looking over her shoulder at a fast-rising Sanders for the state’s 156 pledged delegates.
The former first lady’s once massive lead in Illinois has been reduced to only a couple of points in the RCP average, with one recent survey showing Sanders in the lead. This comes after one poll from early March found Clinton ahead by 42 points.
There appears to be energy on Sanders’s side. His supporters turned out in force to disrupt a massive Trump rally in Chicago on Friday night.
The Sanders campaign has sought to tie Clinton to embattled Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a former Bill ClintonBill ClintonWhat to know about Trump's national monuments executive order Larry Summers: Mnuchin squandering his credibility with Trump tax proposal Patagonia threatens to sue Trump over national monuments order MORE White House aide whose approval rating has fallen off a cliff in the wake of a scandal surrounding the police shooting of a young black man.
Clinton has declined to appear with Emanuel while campaigning in the state.
On the Republican side, Trump could start running up the score on his rivals in Illinois.
The statewide winner will take home 15 of the state’s 69 delegates, with the balance allocated by congressional district and heavily weighted in favor of the winner.
Trump leads by 9 points in the RCP average, with a Chicago Tribune survey showing he has broad support in districts across the state.
Still, Ted CruzTed CruzNet neutrality fight descends into trench warfare Secret Service: No guns at Trump NRA speech Cruz: Breaking up 9th Circuit Court ‘a possibility’ MORE is nipping at Trump’s heels in several polls. The Texas senator will need a strong showing to keep Trump from turning this hybrid state into a winner-take-all state, as happened in South Carolina.
Polling is scarce in Missouri, with Sanders edging Clinton by 1 point in a survey released on Monday and trailing Clinton by 7 points in the only other poll conducted this month.
Both Democrats are campaigning heavily in the state, which awards 71 pledged delegates. Sanders is spending big on the airwaves and hoping the electorate will mirror that of neighboring Kansas, which the Vermont senator won by more than 30 points.
There has been only one poll conducted on the Republican side this month, with Trump leading Cruz by 7 points.
The state will award 12 of its 52 GOP delegates to the statewide winner. The rest are winner-take-all by congressional district, making it more likely that the statewide winner takes home a strong majority of all the delegates.
Cruz, who has made a late play for the state, could be the sleeper pick here. Missouri has a strong contingent of Christian conservatives and borders Kansas, where he ran away with the caucuses 10 days ago.
North Carolina’s is the only Republican contest that will award its delegates on a strictly proportional basis Tuesday, so all of the candidates should pick up at least a few delegates.
Still, Trump appears likely to register another resounding victory in a state with the second-most delegates up for grabs on Tuesday. According to the RCP average, he has 41 percent support, followed by Cruz, at 28 percent, Kasich, at 11 percent and Rubio, at 10 percent.
On the Democratic side, Clinton is the heavy favorite to win a majority of the party’s 107 pledged delegates. She has consistently registered above 50 percent in polls there and leads Sanders by an average of 24 points.