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Primary may be relevant

With only about a month to go before the Maryland Primary Election, Republicans in Carroll and across the state may yet have an opportunity to help set the stage for the party's eventual presidential nominee.

That usually isn't the case. With primaries and caucuses spread over the course of several months, presidential primaries are often irrelevant for Democrats or Republicans who happen to reside in states with later voting dates.

Mitt Romney, who has enjoyed frontrunner status for most of the race, remains the person to beat after winning Tuesday's primaries in Michigan and Arizona. Now, all the candidates in the race are looking beyond Saturday's Washington caucus to next week's Super Tuesday votes, and none of the four candidates is showing any indication that they may drop out.

That could change after next week. Alaska, Idaho and North Dakota caucuses and primaries in Georgia, Massachusetts, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia make up the Super Tuesday races. After that, 11 other caucuses and primaries will be held before Maryland, D.C., Wisconsin and Texas hold their scheduled primaries on April 3.

Whether Ron Paul, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich stay in the race until April may come down to how they do in next week's primaries and caucuses, and many believe that the battle for the nomination may go all the way to the Republican convention in late August in Tampa.

Spacing the primaries and caucuses out over the course of several months may make it easier for candidates to get to specific areas and work on increasing their bases, but the process also means that it takes a lot more money to compete and, worse, that voters in states that have later primary or caucus dates often don't have much of a voice in deciding who their candidate will be.

Maryland voters of both major parties are very familiar with that scenario as the choices for them are usually all but decided by the time the primary comes around.

For Republicans this year, Romney is still the candidate to beat. But we'll know better after next Tuesday if this year, for Republicans in Maryland anyway, there will be an opportunity to help choose the eventual presidential nominee.

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