FOX News First: March 15
By Chris Stirewalt

We already know the three most likely scenarios for today’s high-stakes Republican primaries in five delegate-heavy states, Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Illinois and Missouri.

After tonight we can expect to see one of these things: The field winnowed to frontrunner Donald Trump and his archrival Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas; a Trump knockout so powerful that the GOP acquiesces to his takeover bid; or a continuation of a multi-candidate field.

If Trump wins both Florida and Ohio but Cruz wins or ties in the other three contests, it’s down to two candidates in a duel for the remaining 40 percent of the delegates.

If Trump runs the table by large margins, the traditional GOP can lower its flag and raise the Trump banner.

If Trump loses either Ohio to Gov. John Kasich or Florida to Sen. Marco Rubio, the victorious home-state candidate or candidates will go marching on, possibly to the GOP convention.

We have lots of polling and there has sure been no shortage of palaver. But where are the voters and what are they likely to do?  Well…

Let’s go to the map!  Who needs to win and where? Chris Stirewalt shows what to watch for as the returns come in tonight. WATCH HERE.

[Watch Fox: Megyn Kelly and Bret Baier team up for another night of AEHQ coverage as the results roll in starting at 6 p.m. ET]

Florida is rich in groups that love Trump: People over 65 and poor white voters.

Despite having a favorite son in Rubio, Florida was an early adopter of Trumpism. He has led in every poll taken since July, and is expected to romp today in this orange grove of delegates ripe for the picking.

Trump is certain to dominate in counties like Escambia, home to Pensacola, and others close to Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia, as well as with seniors across the state. Rubio hails from vote-rich Miami-Dade County where he can count on his Cuban-American countrymen to rally to his cause.

But every race in Florida is won or lost with the swing voters on the I-4 corridor that runs from the Tampa/St. Petersburg (including the massive vote cache Hillsborough County) across to Orlando and its environs. The reason to believe that Rubio cannot close that gap is not only that Trump is expected to do quite well here, but Cruz might even steal some votes.

Rubio’s hope for a shocking upset rests on two factors. First, Florida is a closed primary, which will deprive Trump of his most powerful weapon in Democratic voters. Second, early voters showed that Rubio had done very well in turning out his team, and candidates’ performance with early voters can be a measurement of intensity. If Trump underperforms by a substantial margin – a possibility with some precedent in prior closed primaries – and Rubio’s voters come out as strong as Cuban coffee, there’s a chance.

But it’s as thin as the crust on a pastelito.

–99 total delegates
–Closed primary
–1,672,634 total ballots cast in 2012
–Mitt Romney, 46 percent; Newt Gingrich, 32 percent; Rick Santorum, 13 percent; Ron Paul, 7 percent
–Polls close at 8 p.m. ET

Miami-Dade County
–Population: 2,662,874
–Median household income: $43,099
–Race: Caucasian, 78 percent; Hispanic, 66 percent
–Adults with bachelor’s degrees: 26 percent
–2012 election: Obama 62 percent
–Residents 65 or older: 15 percent
–Home to the Port of Miami, the busiest passenger cruise port in the world.

[2012 Republican Primary: Mitt Romney, 61 percent; Newt Gingrich, 27 percent; Rick Santorum, 6 percent; Ron Paul, 5 percent]

Hillsborough County (Tampa)
–Population: 1,316,298
–Median household income: $50,122
–Race: Caucasian, 75 percent; Hispanic, 27 percent
–Adults with bachelor’s degrees: 30 percent
–2012 election: Obama 53 percent
–Residents 65 or older: 13 percent
–Tampa, located here, means “sticks of fire” in the language of the indigenous Calusa people.

[2012 Republican Primary: Mitt Romney, 48 percent; Newt Gingrich, 28 percent; Rick Santorum, 16 percent; Ron Paul, 8 percent]

Escambia County (Pensacola)
–Population: 310,659
–Median household income: $44,883
–Race: Caucasian, 70 percent; black, 23 percent
–Adults with bachelor’s degrees: 24 percent
–2012 election: Romney 60 percent
–Residents 65 or older: 16 percent
–What is believed to be the first Roman Catholic mass in America was held on Pensacola Beach shortly after Spanish sailors arrived in 1559.

[2012 Republican Primary: Newt Gingrich, 39 percent; Mitt Romney, 35 percent; Rick Santorum, 16 percent; Ron Paul, 9 percent]

Every political nerd knows how swing state Ohio goes in general elections: Democrats to the north, Republicans to the south and a tossup in the middle. That’s how it comes to pass that every close presidential contest in the modern era gets decided in the suburbs of Columbus, especially in Franklin County.

What’s unusual this year is that the Republican primary will actually act in much the same way. Results in neighboring Michigan and Kentucky give us some guide for how we can expect the state to go, but with a favorite son in Kasich it requires a little extra perspicacity.

We can reasonably expect that Trump’s best counties will be in the hard-luck rustbelt precincts in the northern part of the state. Spanning from communities including Warren in the northeast up to Cleveland and over to Toledo, perhaps no region in America better exemplifies Trump territory in an open Republican primary. There is little doubt that if the Democratic Rep. James Traficant were alive today he would be beaming up for Trump.

But polls have consistently shown Kasich in the driver’s seat in his home state. He can likely credit his success to the fact that he runs well in the Republican heartland in and around Cincinnati to the southwest. While conservative voters in regions like this might normally be expected to favor Cruz they can be expected to stick with their governor.

That brings the fight to the Columbus metro area where Kasich will need to run up the score with suburban women, which might explain the recent shift in his tone about Trump’s incendiary rhetoric.

For Trump to win he’ll need to offset those votes with huge turnout from crossover Democrats up north, a task made more difficult by a potentially competitive Democratic primary.

–66 total delegate
–Open primary
–1,213,879 ballots cast in 2012
–Mitt Romney, 38 percent, Rick Santorum, 37 percent, Newt Gingrich, 15 percent, Ron Paul, 9 percent
–Polls close at 7:30 p.m. ET

Cuyahoga County (Cleveland)
–Population: 1,259,828
–Median household income: $44,203
–Race: Caucasian, 64 percent; black, 30 percent
–Adults with bachelor’s degrees: 30 percent
–2012 election: Obama 69 percent
–Residents 65 or older: 16 percent
–President James A. Garfield was born here in Orange Township.

[2012 Republican Primary: Mitt Romney, 49 percent; Rick Santorum, 29 percent; Newt Gingrich, 12 percent; Ron Paul, 9 percent]

Hamilton County (Cincinnati)
–Population: 806,631
–Median household income: $48,927
–Race: Caucasian, 69 percent; black, 26 percent
–Adults with bachelor’s degrees: 34 percent
–2012 election: Obama 53 percent
–Residents 65 or older: 14 percent
–Cincinnati was named in honor of George Washington after the great Roman General Cincinnatus, who like Washington relinquished power and returned to his farm.

[2012 Republican Primary: Mitt Romney, 49 percent; Rick Santorum, 30 percent; Newt Gingrich, 12 percent; Ron Paul, 9 percent]

Franklin County (Columbus)
–Population: 1,231,393
–Median household income: $51,890
–Race: Caucasian, 70 percent; black, 22 percent
–Adults with bachelor’s degrees: 37 percent
–2012 election: Obama 61 percent
–Residents 65 or older: 11 percent
–The state’s capital, Columbus, is also the number one town to test fast food chain menu items before they go national.

[2012 Republican Primary: Mitt Romney, 41 percent; Rick Santorum, 36 percent; Newt Gingrich, 12 percent; Ron Paul, 10 percent]

Lucas County (Toledo)
–Population: 435,286
–Median household income: $41,751
–Race: Caucasian, 75 percent; black, 20 percent
–Adults with bachelor’s degrees: 24 percent
–2012 election: Obama 65 percent
–Residents 65 or older: 15 percent
–Locals love the Hungarian hot dog Tony Packo’s Café invented, which is a sausage called Kolbász with a spicy sauce and various toppings.

[2012 Republican Primary: Mitt Romney, 41 percent; Rick Santorum, 36 percent; Newt Gingrich, 12 percent; Ron Paul, 10 percent]

The biggest race that almost no one is talking about is in the Tar Heel State. With a massive cache of delegates, scant polling and the state’s earliest primary date in memory, North Carolina stands to be wild ride.

While there’s a strong establishmentarian pull from Charlotte and the voter-rich Mecklenberg County suburbs, the GOP primary electorate here has a history of intense conservatism. Wake County, home to Raleigh, may be smaller in population but it has more Republican voters, and they don’t run to the middle. The 2014 Senate primary here was a hard-fought battle between voters in the two regions, and today should be no different.

Trump has led in what polling there has been and certainly stands to do the best with voters in rural areas and among the residents of the defeated mill and agricultural towns that dot the landscape. But Cruz could be set up for a good showing among better-educated, more affluent voters.

The big question here is whether vestigial suburban support for Rubio and Kasich can drain off enough votes from Cruz in high-end areas to give Trump a clear win.

If the state’s conservative voters have fallen in behind Cruz, however, he will certainly keep it close and might just pull off an upset.

–72 total delegates
–Direct proportional allocation based on statewide vote share
–Voting open to Republicans and independents
–973,206 total ballots cast in 2012
–Mitt Romney, 66 percent, Ron Paul, 11 percent, Rick Santorum, 10 percent, Newt Gingrich, 8 percent (Note: Voted in May 2012)
–Polls close at 7:30 p.m. ET

Wake County (Raleigh)
–Population: 998,691
–Median household income: $66,579
–Race: Caucasian, 69 percent; black, 21 percent
–Adults with bachelor’s degrees: 48 percent
–2012 election: Obama 55 percent
–Residents 65 or older: 10 percent
–The capital city of Raleigh refers to itself as the “Smithsonian of the South” for its abundance of free museums and historic attractions.

Mecklenburg County (Charlotte)
–Population: 1,012,539
–Median household income: $56,472
–Race: Caucasian, 59 percent; black, 32 percent
–Adults with bachelor’s degrees: 42 percent
–2012 election: Obama 61 percent
–Residents 65 or older: 10 percent
–Named in 1765 for British Queen Charlotte Sophia, who was born in the Duchy of Mecklenburg-Strelitz in what is now Germany. She was wife of George III.

In this car crash of an election year we don’t usually have many good roadmaps when it comes to predicting how states will vote. But we at least have some directions for figuring out Illinois.

You can expect Illinois to look a lot like Michigan’s contest last week. A lake isn’t the only thing the two states share. The Midwest cousins have similar demographic spreads with a main Democratic urban hub surrounded by less populated, but more traditionally conservative counties in the rest of the state.

Illinois has the same concoction with Cook County, where Chicago is, and suburban and poor exurban counties to the south like Kankakee. These are the areas where Trump will find his largest group of supporters.

Chicago is a more affluent city than Detroit, however, so there’s likely to be more of a split with the Trump voter than we saw in Motor City. Cook County’s northern side is heading into Lake County and further out towards McHenry County is very affluent.

But these are not traditional conservative Republicans. These are the more moderate GOP voters who went heavy for Mitt Romney in 2012. This is probably where John Kasich will see his support kick in, and where he’ll split the voters with Trump.

The further outside Chicagoland we get the more the state looks like Western Michigan, which means Cruz country. These counties are where the traditionally conservative, evangelical voters are, such as Madison County, across from St. Louis. Most of Illinois actually looks more like this than Chicago, but with less of the vote share the impact on the overall outcome will be smaller.

Don’t count out Illinois as a possible shock victory for Kasich. The neighboring Midwest governor has put a lot more time into Illinois than the other candidates, and could snag even the more conservative voters from Cruz. He won Kalamazoo County in the conservative west in Michigan, and he could do the same here in the Land of Lincoln.

Trump took 36 percent of the vote in Michigan, with Cruz second at 25 percent and Kasich just behind at 24 percent. Keep those numbers in mind as you watch the numbers roll in from Illinois.

–69 total delegates
–54 district delegates, three for each of the 18 congressional districts; 15 at-large delegates
–Delegates are directly elected; at-large delegates are winner-take-all
–Open primary
–933,454 ballots cast in 2012
–Mitt Romney, 47 percent, Rick Santorum, 35 percent, Ron Paul, 9 percent, Newt Gingrich, 8 percent
–Polls close at 8 p.m. ET

Cook County (Chicago)
–Population: 5,246,456
–Median household income: $54,828
–Race: Caucasian, 66 percent; black, 24 percent
–Adults with bachelor’s degrees: 35 percent
–2012 election: Obama 74 percent
–Residents 65 or older: 13 percent
–The first televised U.S. presidential debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon was broadcast from the CBS studios in Chicago on September 26, 1960.

[2012 Republican Primary: Mitt Romney, 57 percent; Rick Santorum, 26 percent; Ron Paul, 10 percent; Newt Gingrich, 7 percent]

McHenry County (Outer suburban Chicago)
–Population: 307,283
–Median household income: $76,345
–Race: Caucasian, 94 percent; black, 1 percent
–Adults with bachelor’s degrees: 32 percent
–2012 election: Romney 53 percent
–Residents 65 or older: 12 percent
–Since 1948, Republicans have carried this county all but one year, 2008 which then-Illinois Senator Barack Obama carried. The county flipped back in 2012 to vote for Mitt Romney.

[2012 Republican Primary: Mitt Romney, 47 percent; Rick Santorum, 32 percent; Ron Paul, 11 percent; Newt Gingrich, 9 percent]

If Cruz is in for a good night tonight, he will be humming “Meet me in St. Louis.”

Most of the votes here are in the I-70 corridor that stretches from St. Louis to Kansas City. And while there are pockets of suburban moderation, these are very conservative Republicans. How conservative? Remember former Rep. Todd Akin? Oh, yes you do. Akin didn’t represent some sleepy corner of the Ozarks for 12 years but rather some of the most affluent zip codes in St. Louis County.

That should be good news for Cruz. But remember that this is an open primary.

St. Louis County and neighboring St. Charles County have lots of blue-collar white voters and the region has been on hard times of late, including the notorious race riots in Ferguson. There should be lots of crossover Democrats for Trump in these neighborhoods and the remaining white ethnic enclaves around The STL. There’s a similar voter split across the state in the Kansas City metro between the wealthy, tony neighborhoods and the Democratic blue-collar areas.

But the reason Cruz can might feel a little bullish about Missouri is places like Greene County in the southwest portion of the state. Springfield has seen a boom in growth and clout. This area of the Show-Me State has large groups of evangelical voters who can be expected to behave like their neighbors to the south and west in Arkansas and Oklahoma, who were good to Cruz.

–52 total delegates
–40 district delegates, five for each of the eight congressional districts; 12 at-large delegates
–Congressional delegates awarded to the candidate with the statewide majority, but if no one wins a majority then the top vote-getter in each district will be awarded five delegates. Majority winner takes all the at-large delegates.
–Open primary
–252,185 total ballots cast
–Rick Santorum, 55 percent, Mitt Romney, 25 percent, Ron Paul, 12 percent
–Polls close at 8 p.m. ET

St. Louis County
–Population: 1,001,876
–Median household income: $59,520
–Race: Caucasian, 70 percent; black, 24 percent
–Adults with bachelor’s degrees: 41 percent
–2012 election: Obama 56 percent
–Residents 65 or older: 17 percent
–Want to taste St. Louis? Try toasted ravioli, deep fried, lightly breaded, beef ravioli with marinara dipping sauce, which originated in the Italian neighborhood known as “The Hill.”

[2008 Republican Primary: John McCain, 41 percent; Mitt Romney, 36 percent; Mike Huckabee, 17 percent]

Greene County (Springfield)
–Population: 285,865
–Median household income: $40,512
–Race: Caucasian, 91 percent; black, 3 percent
–Adults with bachelor’s degrees: 29 percent
–2012 election: Romney 61 percent
–Residents 65 or older: 15 percent
–Nicknamed “Queen of the Ozarks” and known as the birthplace of Route 66.

[2012 Republican Primary: Mike Huckabee, 42 percent; John McCain, 27 percent; Mitt Romney, 25 percent]

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News. Want FOX News First in your inbox every day? Sign up here.
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