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Strategy Memo: The Blue Collar Belle

Good Tuesday morning, and happy Election Day, for the seventeenth time this year. From January 3rd's Iowa caucuses to Super Tuesday to early March contests in Texas and Ohio and now to Indiana and North Carolina, nearly everyone's gotten a turn to vote. If the race does end today, how mad will voters in Oregon, Kentucky and West Virginia be that they didn't get a chance to play Iowa? Aside from the feelings of Beaver, Bluegrass and Byrd-staters, here's what Washington is watching today:

-- The Senate gets back to the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization measure this morning, to which the upper body is debating amendments. The House takes on consumer product safety, as well as a bill that would exempt Nelson Mandela's African National Congress from inclusion in the terrorism category. The lower chamber also takes up a bill on coin modernization. At the White House, President Bush will sign a bill awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to Myanmar pro-democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi, who remains in her home country, and then meets with Martin Torrijos, the president of Panama. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings will be at the Edward Brooke Charter School in Roslindale, Massacusetts today. The school is named for the former Massachusetts Senator who had a torrid affair with Barabara Walters, as the media icon writes in her autobiography.

-- Back to the campaign trail. First, the basics: Polls close in Indiana this evening at 7 p.m. Eastern Time. It's looking like a beautiful day in the Hoosier State, with highs approaching 80 degrees. It's the perfect weather for massive turnout as Hillary Clinton leads the latest RCP Indiana Average by five points. In North Carolina, polls are open until 7:30 p.m., and the weather in Tar Heel land looks equally inviting for a massive turnout.

-- Thousands of voters got their civic duty out of the way a long time ago, and as in other states, early voting numbers are indicative of what will probably be a big showing at the polls. In North Carolina, nearly 500,000 voters have already made their voices heard -- that's 13% of eligible voters, the Boston Globe reports, and almost a fifth of the Democrats who were registered to vote in 2006. Fewer voters have cast ballots in Indiana, where 159,000 voters have already punched chads. That's 4% of eligible voters. By tonight's end, election boards in both states are going to report the highest turnout for a presidential primary in their state's history.

-- The battle today will determine the future of the Democratic race, as we write today, but the future will be determined by which candidate has achieved a more down-home style. With a series of interviews, a slight tweak of the accent and a laser-like focus on economic pocketbook issues that white working class voters say they most care about, Clinton has tried to turn herself into the hero of the average man, as the New York Times writes today. And after unsuccessfully bowling in Pennsylvania, Obama has taken to appearing at VFW halls for a beer, at a labor temple for a breakfast and virtually everywhere that screams the opposite of "elitist," as another Times piece contemplates.

-- On the other hand, the race today could be decided based on both campaigns' execution of their gas tax strategy. Clinton wants to save you a few bucks with a Summer gas tax holiday, sticking the oil companies with the bill after they reported record profits for the first three months of the year. Obama wants you to look beyond a plan he says won't fix anything, or save anyone much money, and toward a serious solution farther down the road. The Post's Chris Cillizza takes a look at both approaches, and the accompanying advertisements that are flying around both early states. It's a difference, Cillizza says, of one candidate trying to be in touch with the everyman and another struggling to keep his campaign in the "movement" category, about moving beyond the politics of the past. It's old-style campaigning versus a new style of soaring rhetoric. One thing to remember, though, is that it's the old style for a reason: It works.

-- But when polls close tonight, one of three things will happen, and the fallout determines the future. Compare three looks at the possible outcomes, one by Politics Nation, one from the Post's Dan Balz and one from the Times' Adam Nagourney (not that we put ourselves in the same ballpark as the other two, but shameless self-promotion never hurt). Two Clinton wins means big momentum swings to her, especially given that two out of the three coming contests are West Virginia and Kentucky. Two Obama wins shut the door on the presidential nominating contest, and John McCain will finally have an opponent. A split of delegates and states means Clinton would lose what is likely her last chance to make a big stride toward catching up with the popular vote or delegate lead Obama has amassed.

-- Speaking of McCain, the Arizona Senator will share space with Democrats today, offering a big speech on his philosophy on judicial appointments at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. Judicial appointments are a topic ripe with opportunity for McCain to drop key code words the conservative base will pick up, furthering his efforts to calm what had been choppy waters. Simultaneously, McCain is wooing Hispanic voters, calling them an important part of the GOP's future that has been neglected in recent years, the Washington Times writes today. McCain used Cinco de Mayo to launch his website's Spanish-language version, and as manager Rick Davis told RCP, most of the campaign's ads will have Spanish-language equivalents.

-- Omen Of The Day: Obama's biggest electability argument -- that he can bring new voters to the process and, in turn, the Democratic fold -- could have a serious coattail effect in November, the LA Times' Mark Barabak writes today. But the coattails could go either way, especially for endangered incumbents in key swing states. Share a ticket with Obama, and Democratic members of Congress will get new, younger voters. But they might also face a backlash of associating too closely with the national party, as Mississippi Democratic congressional candidate Travis Childers is finding out right about now.

-- Today On The Trail: Obama spends his election night at a rally at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. Clinton will hit the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Why didn't Obama have a mega-rally there?) before holding her own election night evnt in Indianapolis. McCain's only event today is his speech on judicial nominees in Winston-Salem.