2008 will be remembered as a landmark year in American politics and a surprisingly interesting one for Maryland voters. Neither of the Democratic contenders is expected to lock up a nomination in Tuesday's super primary, and that makes Maryland's Feb. 12 contest relevant for the first time in a long time.
National opinion polls show Hillary Rodham Clinton leading Barack Obama, but he's gained momentum since his victory in South Carolina. More important, many Democratic primaries award delegates based on share of the vote rather than winner-take-all. That means there is a good chance Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama will be battling for every delegate they can capture.
For Republicans, the primary struggle between Sen. John McCain and Mitt Romney could move closer to a decisive conclusion this week because most of the GOP contests are winner-take-all. Still, that race may well be in play when Marylanders vote. If so, Mr. McCain's military friends and defense industry supporters could give him an edge here.
The Maryland Democratic primary should be typical of the fights to come. The party leadership is divided: Gov. Martin O'Malley, Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski and Rep. C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger have endorsed Mrs. Clinton, while Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings and Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler are backing Mr. Obama.
As the candidates fight for delegates, here are a few questions that they or their surrogates could answer for Marylanders:
What more can the federal government do to assist efforts to preserve and renew the Chesapeake Bay? How will they assist in the war on drugs, help combat urban violence and ensure development of affordable housing? Will they deliver federal aid for new transit links and highways for the state's fast-growing federal workforce?
Both Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton are promising a new hopeful era at a time when the nation is beleaguered by war in Iraq and an economy at home tipping toward recession. Mr. McCain and Mr. Romney each offer their own brand of conservatism.
Maryland voters have the chance to make their choice before the party's nominee for the White House is decided.