The eyes of Texas are upon them _ and the eyes of Ohio, Vermont and Rhode Island.
Presidential candidates know the importance of the remaining primary states, and those four are the next on the calendar, casting ballots Tuesday. As the hopefuls try hard to introduce themselves, residents in these states work to make known their own distinctiveness.
So, what then makes these states tick _ what kind of people are the voters there, what's the place really like, what must the candidates absolutely not overlook? Here are four sketches.
OHIO, by Andrew Welsh-Huggins in Columbus
Welcome to Ohio, presidential hopefuls. Stay as long as you'd like _ we need people. One newspaper called us the "incredible shrinking state" thanks to Census predictions showing a population drop by 2030.
We're also losing manufacturing jobs _ hundreds of thousands in the last decade. We never fully recovered from the last recession. Our unemployment rate is stuck at 1 percentage point above the national rate. Two of our big cities, Cleveland and Cincinnati, are on a list of the country's top five poorest urban areas.
But enough gloom and doom. We've got plenty going for us.
Our gross domestic product is $440 billion (euro296 billion). If we were a country, we'd have the world's 25th biggest economy. And how about this favorite stat for state deal makers: Ohio companies are within 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) of 60 percent of the country's population.
Here are a few other essentials you should know.
Eight in 10 of us 11.5 million Ohioans are white, with the remainder mostly black along with a growing Hispanic population. We're a Great Lakes state up north, Appalachia down south and farm country in between.
We love football (even if our beloved Ohio State Buckeyes are 1 for 3 in national championship games) and we love our special foods. Eat some pierogi in Cleveland, some chili in Cincinnati, and don't even think about hitting Toledo without a stop for Tony Packo's Hungarian hot dogs.
We're a political tossed salad: We re-elected President George W. Bush in 2004 and two years later dumped almost all Republican statewide officeholders.
Ride a jet ski along the Ohio River near Cincinnati and your wake will hit docks in Hamilton County, one of the most conservative parts of the state, more likely to send convicts to death row than other Ohioans are.
Don a wet suit 248 miles (399 kilometers) to the north and surf Lake Erie some winter _ plenty of hearty souls do _ and your board will come to rest on the liberal shores of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County, where U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich _ remember him from your early candidate debates? _ promotes a Department of Peace when he's not eyeing aliens with Shirley MacLaine.
Democrats hold all major Ohio cities, Republicans flourish in the 'burbs and exurbs.
Why is it so important to know who we are and what we like?
Well, without winning Ohio, no Republican has won the White House in more than a century, and only two Democrats have done so. So there.
TEXAS - by Michelle Roberts in San Antonio
Everyone knows Texas is big. How big? Not to brag, but... five times the size of the other three March 4 primary states combined.
A driver observing the speed limit (it happens) can leave the western tip of the state and 12 hours later still be in Texas, on the eastern edge. From grazing ranges in the north to deserts in the west to pine-covered hills in the east, ending in the south where the Gulf of Mexico meets the Rio Grande, Texas just goes on and on.
All that territory combined with a brief history as a breakaway republic give Texans a certain independent streak, a "swagger" perhaps to outsiders.
But candidates, take note: For all the stereotypical Stetsons and boots, Texas' 23.5 million residents include a lot of newcomers these days. The population is growing at twice the national average, and folks are coming with their own ideas, moderating the red state's politics and even its priorities. One in four of Houston's 2 million residents is foreign-born.
"More and more, Texans are like the rest of the country. I'll probably be run out of the state for saying that," says Democratic analyst Kelly Fero. "We still think of ourselves as ornery independents."
Texas voters do not register by party. They choose a primary in which to vote on election day. In the last presidential primary, 839,000 people cast Democratic ballots. That number should be higher this time around, according to state officials.
However many voters show up, a sizable chunk will be Hispanic. More than a third of residents of Texas, where Mexican-Americans note the border crossed them after the U.S.-Mexico War, are of Hispanic or Latino origin.
But regardless of their ethnicity, Texans feel sharply the effects of changing immigration policy and security fears. The 1,240-mile (1,995-kilometer) boundary with Mexico, porously defined by the winding flow of the Rio Grande, angers and frightens many conservatives.
"Texas is on the front line of the border security and immigration issue," says Republican consultant Ray Sullivan.
But Texas also has strong economic ties to its southern neighbor and generations of families who have straddled the two cultures, making a Bush administration plan for a border fence an issue candidates must address in south Texas.
Issues aside though, Texans, old and new, demand candor. They see this election as critical, and the Lone Star State, which naturally thinks big, won't tolerate what Fero calls "small talk."
VERMONT - By John Curran in Montpelier
Vermont's the only state President Bush hasn't visited while in office, and given the political climate, it's unlikely he will.
So, primary candidates, listen up _ maybe the best piece of advice as you try to appeal to voters here is this: Don't be Bush.
In ultra-liberal Vermont, anti-war rallies started even before the war did, there's been talk of secession, and last year the state Senate called for the impeachment of Bush and Vice President Cheney.
It didn't work. So the town of Brattleboro _ an artsy southern Vermont enclave that only recently banned public nudity _ wants to go a step further. On primary day, its residents will vote on whether to issue warrants for the arrest of Bush and Cheney, should they ever visit.
Just another reason for the president not to drop by.
Most of this year's candidates may not, either. Republican John McCain stumped here recently, but Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton haven't. That's OK. Vermont's used to being overlooked in the presidential sweepstakes, save for 2004, when former Gov. Howard Dean came within shouting distance of the Democratic nomination.
"The Vermont primary has usually been invisible," said Secretary of State Deb Markowitz.
This year, it's less so, given the close Obama-Clinton race. But in size, delegate count, electoral votes and just about any other measure _ except number of ski resorts _ Vermont's a piker compared with lots of other states.
Still, any candidate who does venture to the Green Mountain State should know a few things:
People in Vermont who mention "St. Patrick" mean U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy.
Important industry: Vermont is the No. 1 producer of maple syrup. "Sugarin' season" means the part of early spring when maple tree sap starts running.
The Northeast Kingdom has no monarch. It's the lush, remote northeastern part of the state, where few of Vermont's 623,908 people live.
A Vermont political party primer: The governor's a Republican, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders is an Independent who calls himself a socialist, and Progressive is a party here.
Fiercely independent, politically unpredictable and gracious to a fault, Vermonters value straight talk over partisanship. They'll take a sturdy roof rake over a smooth-talking pol any day.
RHODE ISLAND - By Michelle R. Smith, in Providence
It only takes about an hour to drive across Rhode Island, the nation's smallest state by area. But a million people live in the state, making it the second most densely populated behind New Jersey.
Candidates in the March 4 primaries need to understand a few things about Ocean Staters, though these things may not always be as they first appear.
Take religion, for instance. Providence, the state's population center and its capital, was founded by Roger Williams, who was cast out of Massachusetts for religious reasons and went on to start the First Baptist Church in America on what is now the city's wealthy East Side. But the dominant faith here now is Catholicism, the religion of more than 60 percent of the state's residents.
Now that that's clear, note this: Religion doesn't usually figure into elections here. Like other New Englanders, Rhode Island voters don't typically use religion as a litmus test.
Providence's East Side is home to the Ivy League Brown University and the world-renowned Rhode Island School of Design. The Gilded-Age resort town of Newport, at the entrance to Narragansett Bay in the south, is still a destination for yachters and the super-rich.
But wait _ the state's voters are largely working class. Many grew up in families that immigrated in the past century from Italy or Portugal. There's also a large group of people with French-Canadian ancestry who came to work in Rhode Island's mill towns during the Industrial Revolution. Most of those mills closed decades ago.
Union support is key for any politician hoping to do well here. Rhode Island's aging population also wields a great deal of voting power, and issues that resonate with the elderly, such as health care, are important.
Rhode Island is heavily Democratic _ registered Democrats outnumber Republicans more than 3 to 1, although unaffiliated voters outnumber them both combined. There are so few Republicans that the state's only political poll, run by Brown University, ignores Republican races because there aren't enough voters to get accurate results.
Still, when they vote, Rhode Islanders often elect colorful public officials _ some of whom turn out to be corrupt. The FBI and federal prosecutors are currently investigating possible misdeeds at the Statehouse. Former Providence Mayor Vincent "Buddy" Cianci spent several years in federal prison for corruption before coming home last year _ to a warm welcome and a cushy gig on talk radio.
So primary candidates: Be colorful and be careful. But even if you get in trouble, Rhode Islanders can be forgiving.
The eyes of Texas are upon them _ and the eyes of Ohio, Vermont and Rhode Island.