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Essential Politics: On Florida and Ohio elections -- this is going to be big

Essential Politics: On Florida and Ohio elections -- this is going to be big
(LAT)

No political contest in America is susceptible to more hype than the race for the presidency, where winners and losers seem to be crowned by the minute. How many times has a candidate been inevitable or washed up only to see the following week change everything?

Tonight, folks, may be the exception. On this Election Day, the race could finally settle on a path toward either dominance or division.

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Good morning from the state capital. I'm Sacramento Bureau Chief John Myers and in this most political of California cities, it's hard to find people not constantly checking their smartphone for the latest in the Trump-Clinton-Sanders-Cruz-Rubio-Kasich saga.

REPUBLICANS RUMBLE, DEMOCRATS DUEL IN FIVE STATES

Tonight, five states weigh in for what's being dubbed, in Hollywood style, "Super Tuesday 3."

Two of them could tell the tale for Republicans. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio needs huge help to pull out a win in his home state, where Donald Trump seems poised to win. A better chance, though still a tough slog, awaits Ohio Gov. John Kasich in the Buckeye State.

But if Trump wins both states, he could be unstoppable in his quest for the GOP nomination.

On the Democratic side, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders searches for some more Midwest momentum as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton could extend her delegate lead by the time the night comes to an end.

Florida, Ohio, Illinois, North Carolina, and Missouri. It's a big night and our presidential reporting team is fanned out and ready to roll.

WATCH WITH US TONIGHT

We'll be tracking each of the contests tonight as soon as polls close in Ohio and North Carolina at 4:30 p.m. PDT. See the results from each state here.

Follow along with our coverage, get dispatches from Florida and Ohio and watch the speeches on Trail Guide, and keep track of the increasingly important delegate count using our exclusive tracker.

Don't miss a moment during the day by following @latimespolitics on Twitter.

MEANWHILE, TWO YEARS FROM NOW…

OK, back to California, where 2018 still feels like a long way away. Or does it?

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The 2018 race for governor will be here before you know it and Phil Willon has put together an early line on who's in, who's likely and who's wishful thinking.

In some cases, the potential heirs to Gov. Jerry Brown could create their own presidential buzz with a win in November 2018. Political watchers will remember well the fizzled White House bid of former Gov. Pete Wilson and the brief musings that maybe former Gov. Gray Davis had the right stuff. Neither man did, of course, but an open gubernatorial race is a big deal and we're getting started early.

One of those potential candidates, billionaire activist Tom Steyer, waded into the presidential race himself on Monday by calling Republican front-runner Trump a "racist."

CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORMERS STEP ASIDE

Meantime, the fall 2016 ballot is starting to take shape in the Golden State and might be shrinking a bit. On Monday, Silicon Valley entrepreneur Jim Heerwagen abandoned his ballot initiative to require new campaign finance and lobbying disclosure.

Instead, Heerwagen endorsed three pieces of legislation in Sacramento that he said should get the job done. One of them, unveiled on Monday, would commit more than $13 million in taxpayer funds to build a new online database for tracking campaign contributions.

TODAY'S ESSENTIALS

— A Southern Californian on the U.S. Supreme Court? David Savage and Maura Dolan profile Judge Paul J. Watford, a leading candidate for the vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

— The Republican National Committee plans to launch a media blitz against Sen. Dianne Feinstein and others during the Supreme Court confirmation confrontation.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is leading 16 House Democratic colleagues on a trip to Cuba next week when President Obama visits the island nation March 21-22.

The San Francisco Democrat will be joined by House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rep. Xavier Becerra (Los Angeles) and Reps. Karen Bass (Los Angeles), Sam Farr (Carmel), Barbara Lee (Oakland) and Alan Lowenthal (Long Beach).

Staff for several of the California members told Sarah Wire they are still waiting to learn details about what the congressional delegation will do when in Cuba.

LOGISTICS

Miss yesterday's newsletter? Find it here. Did someone forward you this? Sign up here to get Essential Politics in your inbox daily. And keep an eye on our politics page throughout the day for the latest and greatest. And are you following us on Twitter at @latimespolitics and @LATpoliticsCA?

Follow @johnmyers on Twitter and listen to the weekly California Politics Podcast.

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Please send thoughts, concerns and news tips to politics@latimes.com.

This post was updated at 10:37 a.m. to reflect that Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (Downey) is not one of the Democrats traveling to Cuba.

It was originally published at 6 a.m.

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