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ANDREA SEABROOK, host:

Joining me now is NPR's senior Washington editor Ron Elving. He's been watching the primaries and caucuses coming up on Tuesday. And first of all, Ron, we just heard about the Democratic side in Hawaii. What's going with the Republicans there?

RON ELVING: The Republicans, Andrea, had a series of precinct caucuses late in January, early in February, around the island, elected about 1,000 delegates going to their state convention in mid-May. That's where they'll really make the decision about who they're with.

SEABROOK: Okay. So looking forward to Tuesday, there are a couple of big events there. Washington State is one of them. There's a primary, right?

ELVING: Yes. On the Republican side, this primary will allocate about half of their delegates. On the Democratic side, it won't allocate any. It's just a beauty contest. They already allocated all their delegates back in the February 9th caucuses.

SEABROOK: And so that leaves the big story being Wisconsin, which is one of, as I know, your home states, Ron. That will be the big event on Tuesday. And it's an open primary. I mean, a really open primary, right? I mean, independents could have a lot of sway here.

ELVING: Yes. In Wisconsin it a grand tradition, a longstanding tradition, that the primary be completely open. And by that it means each individual has equal access to candidates from either party. People don't register by party in Wisconsin. So it's important that people have this right to choose and go back and forth without any sense of it being mischievous or being in some sense or another surreptitious.

And the parties have fought of this against their national organizations when people have tried to go after that open primary concept.

SEABROOK: Does it mean that Obama and Clinton are actually not just competing each other but against John McCain and Mike Huckabee?

ELVING: Yes. And we have seen a little bit of this already, for example in Virginia, a couple of other open states, where already we have seen some competition, particularly between Barack Obama and John McCain for the independents.

Now, another factor in Wisconsin to mention is the relative ease of registering here. You can walk in on primary day and you get can get registered to vote, and that should help Obama. Because he has, generally speaking, done well among new voters and young voters and student voters.

SEABROOK: And so, Ron, who's the favorite here? Who are the polls showing ahead?

ELVING: John McCain is expected to do well here and pick up some more delegates as he moves towards his magic number of 1,191 and becomes the official nominee.

On the Democratic side, however, we have a very exciting and competitive contest. All the polls taken back in 2007 had Hillary well ahead, way into double digits. But the polls taken more recently have shown Obama opening a very small single-digit lead, four, five percentage points. And you know, Hillary Clinton has had a lot of ads up here. She's been highlighting his decision not to debate in this state. She's had support from the government employees and the teachers unions. Those are highly effective unions in Wisconsin, and plus one other thing.

A lot of the media punditocracy here in Washington and around the country has really changed sides in this Democratic primary. It used to be Hillary the inevitable, and now the tilt has become more on the Obama side. You're hearing more and more people saying they think he's going to get the nomination. And there is nothing Wisconsin likes better than defying conventional wisdom and confounding expectations.

SEABROOK: All eyes are on Tuesday. NPR senior Washington editor Ron Elving. Thanks, Ron.

ELVING: Good to be with you, Andrea.

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