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Will The Texas Primary Matter?

By Bill Zeeble, KERA reporter

Dallas, TX – Bill Zeeble, KERA reporter: It may be a cold morning in the parking lot of this north Dallas bookstore, but many customers have closely followed hot election news about Thursday's Iowa Caucuses and Tuesday's New Hampshire primaries.

Frank Pittinger, voter: I'm trying to re-learn what a caucus is.

Zeeble: Frank Pittinger & his wife Michelle take politics seriously. Enough that they want their votes to count. Frank Pittinger says the primary schedule's so compressed, a candidate in each big party might already be picked by March 4th. He cares about the environment and social justice issues. His wife's worried about health insurance.

Frank Pittinger: It does bother me. I would like to have more of a voice & be more of a determining factor in the process.

Zeeble:. Self-declared Democrats, they aren't sure their vote would count even in November, because the state's so strongly Republican. Most pundits believe the Republican nominee-whoever it is- can count on getting this state's delegates. But way before March, there are 9 primaries this month, then in February, there are dozens more, including 23 on Super Tuesday alone, February 5th. That's when delegate-rich California, Illinois and New York, among others, weigh in, ostensibly leaving Texas in the cold. Republican voter Mike Steinman, whose issues include the war in Iraq and the economy, shares some of the Pittingers' concerns.

Mike Steinman, accountant: It's not a true primary system because it shouldn't matter that Iowa and New Hampshire, if you have 500 thousand people voting and decide who the candidates are, and when you actually get to the presidential election, what the electoral college system, it doesn't matter either.

Zeeble: But Texan Maurine Patend expects her primary vote WILL matter.

Maurine Patend: I think there's' too much chance of anyone winning at this point. There are too many people in the race. I definitely think Texas has a say-so in the primaries.

Zeeble: Republican voter Harry Lee agrees.

Harry Lee, engineer: If you look at Democrats, they're really between Clinton, Obama and Edwards, all within a percent of each. I'll be surprised if one just takes off and wins it. In the Republican side, it's probably even more undetermined. And those primaries, those down the road, favor others. Giuliani, for example, will be helped down the road.

Zeeble: While some political observers dismiss that scenario, Southern Methodist University Political Science Professor Cal Jillson says it IS possible.

Cal Jillson, SMU Political Science Professor: SMU Politics Science Professor Cal Jillson: In Iowa and New Hampshire, the polls are close on both sides. Maybe one wins in Iowa and another wins in New Hampshire. And then 3 or 4 on bother sides do well in others, and then the big explosion of 23 events on February 5th leaves several winning, and then you go on to March.

Zeeble: Leaving a primary winner still in flux, according to Jillson And the Texas primary, could really make a difference. Bill Zeeble KERA news. Bzeeble@Kera.Org