Voters in Indiana, North Carolina and West Virginia took to the polls Tuesday, weighing in on the presidential primaries and in North Carolina, a hot-button social issue.
By a wide margin—61 percent to 39 percent—North Carolinians made theirs the 30th state to pass a constitutional ban on gay marriage, reinforcing a state law that already banned the practice. While supporters of the measure celebrated, opponents lamented that it would also outlaw civil unions between gay couples, something many voters in the state may not have been aware of.
It's a rebuke of recent momentum claimed by same-sex marriage advocates, who are hoping ballot measures in four other states this fall will show more popular support for gay marriage. A recent Gallup poll showed 50 percent of voters nationally support the practice and Vice President Joe Biden recently announced he did as well. That move put pressure on President Obama to clarify his position, which is officially "evolving" at this point.
The strong conservative showing by the general North Carolinian electorate was also a sign of encouragement for the GOP. Democrats had targeted the state as a 2012 presidential battleground after President Obama defeated Republican John McCain there in 2008 by a slim margin. The Democrats have gone so far as to hold their convention in Charlotte this summer. But Republicans hope the anti-gay marriage vote is a preview of a Democratic rebuke in November.
West Virginia also offered a blow to establishment Democrats as a federal inmate, Keith Judd, garnered 41 percent of the primary vote against President Obama, who received just 59 percent. In 2008, Obama lost the state by 13 points, but traditionally incumbent presidents cruise through any token primary opposition they encounter.
Obama's environmental policy is much maligned in West Virginia, a coal-mining state. And as another sign of how unpopular the president is, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, who assumed office during a 2010 special election but is running for re-election this fall, said he's not sure if he'll vote for Obama or his Republican rival in November.
That rival is all the more likely to be Mitt Romney after the GOP front-runner scored a hat trick on Tuesday. It was good enough to earn him about 100 more of the nearly 288 delegates he needs to reach the 1,144 total that would officially secure the nomination, according to a tally by the Associated Press. Romney's only remaining rival for the party's nod is Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who has about 100 delegates in total. Former opponents Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, both of whom topped Romney in earlier primary contests, dropped out in recent weeks.
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Rebekah Metzler is a political writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact her at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter.