McCain wins Ohio and Vermont, CNN projects; the Democratic race in Ohio is too close to call.

Exit poll CNN Sen. Barack Obama is projected to win Vermont’s Democratic primary.McCain also will win Vermont’s Republican primary, and Barack Obama will win the state’s Democratic contest, CNN projects based on exit polling. Vermont gives Obama his 12th consecutive win and puts McCain 17 delegates closer to clinching the Republican nomination.

McCain overwhelmingly won moderates and conservatives in Ohio, but he lost the evangelical vote to Mike Huckabee, according to exit polls.Texas and Rhode Island are also holding contests Tuesday.

Polls in Rhode Island close at 9 p.m. ET. Most polls in Texas close at 8, but some stay open until 9 p.m.

In Texas, Sen. Hillary Clinton holds a two-to-one advantage over Obama with Hispanic voters, while Obama has the overwhelming advantage with black voters in the state’s Democratic primary, according to CNN’s exit poll.

These early surveys provide a snapshot of the race, but are not conclusive on who will win the critical contest.

Eighty-three percent of blacks voted for Obama, while 16 percent supported Clinton, according to the exit poll.

Meanwhile, 64 percent of Hispanics backed Clinton, while 32 percent went for Obama.

Some say Clinton must win the Democratic contests in Texas and Ohio if she is to continue to compete with Obama.  Watch Clinton say she is optimistic »

CNN Special Coverage

Will Texas and Ohio help decide the Democratic nominee? Get analysis and results from the Best Political Team on Television.

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“If Obama wins Texas and Ohio, it’s game over,” said CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider.

Early exit polls indicate a distinct “age gap” in both states.

Obama appeals most strongly to younger voters while older voters favor Clinton. Among Ohio Democratic primary voters aged 17 to 29, 65 percent went for Obama, and 34 percent went for Clinton. Among those age 60 and older, Clinton leads Obama 67-31 percent.

The same pattern holds true in early exit polling from the Texas Democratic primary. Among voters aged 18 to 29, Obama leads Clinton 61-39 percent, and among voters 60 and older, Clinton leads Obama 63- 36 percent.

While Tuesday is an important primary day for Democrats, it could also be a turning point for Republicans.

McCain could win enough delegates to mathematically secure his party’s nomination Tuesday, though he has been the presumed GOP nominee for weeks.

McCain has 1,095 delegates, 96 shy of the 1,191 he needs to lock in the Republican nomination. On Tuesday, 256 GOP delegates are at stake, so if McCain has a good night, he can go over the top.

Huckabee is still in the race, even though he faces astronomical odds. The former Arkansas governor has said he would bow out if McCain wins a majority of the delegates.

Steady streams of people cast ballots in Tuesday’s contests, and officials in the delegate-rich states of Ohio and Texas said they expect record turnouts.

Despite freezing rain in northern Ohio and bad weather elsewhere in the state, Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner estimated that as many as 52 percent of registered voters might go to the polls, 15 percentage points higher than the average of past presidential primaries.

Three polling stations in Jefferson County in eastern Ohio were relocated Tuesday because of flooding that could have prevented people from voting, election officials said.

County residents unable to get to their designated polling places because of bad weather were given the option of casting provisional ballots Tuesday in Steubenville, the county seat, at the offices of the Board of Elections, officials said. The board has to verify those ballots by March 25.  See scenes from Tuesday’s voting »

I-Reporter Bruce Goldberg reported long lines at the polls in Grapevine, Texas. When he voted at 7:20 a.m., he said 70 people had already voted in the Democratic primary.

“There’s usually a big line of Republicans and nobody at the Democratic table at the primary,” he said. “When I walked in this morning, there were a lot of cars out, and it was the complete opposite.”

Poll workers in Collin County, near Dallas, also reported high turnout for the Democratic primary. The Dallas Morning News called Collin one of the most Republican counties in the state.

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Poll workers there estimated that nearly three-quarters of the Democratic voters would participate in the Democratic caucuses to be held after the polls close.

In an unusual system, the 193 delegates that Texas will send to the Democratic National Convention will be split between Obama and Clinton according to the results of both the primary and the caucuses.

State party officials say the dual primary/caucus system promotes participation in the party. Both Clinton and Obama have encouraged supporters to do the “Texas two-step” and vote in both events.

Obama comes into the day with momentum on his side. He has 1,378 pledged delegates and superdelegates to Clinton’s 1,269.

Neither candidate is close to the 2,025 needed to win the Democratic nomination. Clinton and Obama will be competing for 370 delegates Tuesday. Texas and Ohio, which has 141 delegates, will be the biggest prizes.  Allocate delegates yourself and see how the numbers add up »

Former President Bill Clinton said in February that if his wife wins Ohio and Texas, she’ll go on to win the nomination. Whether she will drop out of the race if she doesn’t win either of those states is another question.

While visiting a polling station in the mostly-Latino east end of Houston on Tuesday morning, Clinton said she felt “really good about” Tuesday’s elections and was expecting “tremendous” turnout across Texas.

Clinton did not make a prediction about the outcome of Tuesday’s races, but her campaign chairman, Terry McAuliffe, was not so guarded Tuesday morning. He predicted Clinton wins in both Texas and Ohio.

“I’ve said this for a long time. These are two big states,” he told CNN. “There’s a lot of big issues: national security, the issues on the economy. Those are Hillary’s issues. She’s been out front in the polling data on all of those.”

CNN’s poll of polls, an averaging of the most recent surveys in each state, suggests the race is extremely tight, with Obama ahead by 2 points in Texas and Clinton ahead by 5 in Ohio. But the polls also indicate there are still many undecided voters in both states.

Clinton is also ahead in Rhode Island, which, like Ohio, has a large Catholic and working-class population.



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