Will the Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan campaigns head west to Kansas and Wisconsin after Tuesday's Connecticut and New York primaries with the 1980 presidential nominations all but roped and tied?
Already the incumbent, without making a single appearance on the political stump, has a Democratic delegate lead that not only is large, but is impressive in all major regions of country so far contested.
And many pundits see the major question left for the Republicans as whom former California Governor Reagan will choose as his running mate.
President Carter on Tuesday (March 25) is expected to add the populous Northeast to his regional control of the contest. He already has the overall numerical edge over Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, leading him by 3 to 1 among the 993 delegates apportioned so far.
A strong showing for Ronald Reagan in Connecticut and New York would similarly, on the Republican side, enable him to claim a commanding edge in every part of the county.
Only the West will remain as a largely uncontested battleground, with most of its primaries scheduled late on the nomination calendar.
While the Iowa and New Hampshire contests got most of the early campaign notice, it was actually the South that gave Mr. Carter and Mr. Reagan their early momentum. Going into last week's Illinois contest, at least 230 delegates of Mr. Carter's estimated 300 pre-Illinois delegate lead came from the South. Illinois was pivotal because that state's large number of delegates, reflective of the Midwest's industrial and rural populace, demonstrated Mr. Carter's strength in that region.
And Illinois broadened Mr. Reagan's regional stake in the race beyond the South and border states, where he had acquired 137 of his 206 pre-Illinois delegates.
So far, only the East has eluded Mr. Carter's grasp in the overall delegate contest.Of that region's 166 delegates apportioned so far, Senator Kennedy has 100 to President Carter's 65. Of the 424 south and border state delegates chosen (including Saturday's 57-to-5 delegate victory in Virginia caucuses for Mr. Carter), the President controls about 340 delegates to Senator Kennedy's estimated 60, with 25 uncommitted, In the Midwest, Mr. Carter has acquired about 250 of the 304 delegates apportioned so far. In the Midwest, where only 99 delegates have been chosen, the Carter and Kennedy camps agree the President has won more than half the delegates, with Kennedy and uncommited slates splitting the rest.
When New York and Connecticut voters go to the polls Tuesday, March 25, they will put the East out in front in the delegate tally. In the Democratic race, 336 delegates will be decided, 282 in New York and 54 in Connecticut -- putting the East ahead with 502 of the 1,329 Democratic delegates apportioned.
These two Eastern contests will decide 10.1 percent of the Democratic convention total and almost 8 percent of the Republican total -- more than on any other primary day until June 3, when New Jersey, Ohio, and California combine with Mississippi (GOP only), Montana, New Mexico, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and West Virginia to decide the final 20 percent of convention delegates for both parties.
The New York contests differ in the way they are set up for the two parties. Mr. Carter and Mr. Kennedy will be matched up directly, without even California Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. on the ballot. However, Republicans in New York will vote only for delegates, with no direct vote for Mr. Reagan and his chief New York rival, George Bush.
Further obscuring the Republican event in New York, the largest group of delegates may emerge uncommitted, a situation Congressman John B. Anderson hopes to take advance of to help his own lagging delegate tally.
In late New York voter readings, Mr. Carter and Mr. Reagan were given the edge in delegate prospects.
In Connecticut, the latest University of Connecticut poll gave Mr. Carter a 2 -to-1 lead over Mr. Kennedy among Democrats who had made up their minds. Mr. Reagan led 4 to 3 over George bush and 4 to 2 over John Anderson. However, the survey -- started before but completed after the Illinois primary -- also turned up a very high proportion of undecided voters, more than 40 percent among both Democrats and Republicans.
The delegate derby swings back to the US midsection next week with the April 1 Kansas and Wisconsin primaries.