The results of the 2016 Democratic Presidential Caucus in Nevada and the 2016 GOP South Carolina Primary are in. In the Silver State, Democratic front-runner, former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton took the gold, defeating the Senator from Vermont Bernie Sanders 52.7% to 47.2%. In the Palmetto State, billionaire Donald Trump was the Republican victor winning 32.5% of the vote and all 44 of the state’s delegates. Florida Senator Marco Rubio took second place with 22.5%, just a few hundred votes ahead of Texas Senator Ted Cruz who came in third with 22.3%. After landing in fourth place with only 7.8% of the vote in a state where he had heavily campaigned, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush dropped out of the presidential race. Ohio Governor John Kasich came in fifth with 7.6% of the vote and Dr. Ben Carson finished last at 7.2%.
For Hillary Clinton, winning Nevada should have been an easy victory. Instead, following her crushing loss in New Hampshire and her narrow win in Iowa, Nevada became a must win state from a public perception perspective. Clinton’s less than five point win over Sanders yielded 19 delegates vs. 15 for Sanders. Clinton was also a shoe-in to secure most of the state’s eight super delegates. While political pundits are still scratching their heads that Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed socialist, has made so much traction in a race against the formidable Clinton machine, Clinton is going into next week’s critical South Carolina Democrat Primary with a clear edge. She has a big advantage in the Palmetto State with most polls showing her with a 24% lead. Clinton has also secured the support of half of South Carolina’s six super delegates, while Sanders has only received a support pledge from one. Clinton is also heavily counting on securing the African-American vote in South Carolina. The data from the Nevada Caucus demonstrates that Clinton is resonating with the African- American voter. According to preliminary entrance polls reported by CNN, Clinton won among black Democrats by a landslide, 76% to 22%. The electorate in Nevada is 13% African-American, 19% Hispanic, and 59% White.
However, the Clinton Campaign is aware that they cannot underestimate Sanders’ current momentum. Breaking Sanders’ lock on the millennial vote is critical. According to CBS’s summary of the Nevada Caucus’s early entrance data, among voters ages 17 to 29, which represented 18% of caucus goers, Sanders received 80% of the support vs. 10% for Clinton. In the Nevada Caucus, Sanders also had a lead over Clinton with Hispanics with 54 % of caucus goers expressing support for him vs. 43% for Clinton. In 2008, Clinton had easily won the Nevada Hispanic vote with 64% as compared with then Senator Barack Obama’s 26% and Senator John Edwards’ eight percent. The Nevada Caucus results also show that Clinton also continues to lag behind Sanders on the question of income inequality. Among voters for whom income equality is the most important issue, voters went 66% for Sanders vs. 33% for Clinton. And of course, the trust worthiness issue continues to loom. Among voters for whom honesty and trustworthiness is the most important issue, Sanders continues to lead with 85% of the support vs. Clinton at 11%.
Turning to the Republicans, Donald Trump was the winner in South Carolina in several ways. First of all, he had the over ten point lead over his next competitor. Secondly, his win is significant because no Republican candidate has ever won both New Hampshire and South Carolina and failed to secure the Republican nomination. Finally, the Republican Party establishment has to wake up and acknowledge that Trump is not a flash in the pan, fly by night candidate. There is a very good chance that his name might be on the general election ballot come November. Thirdly, the fact the GOP field still includes four other candidates virtually guarantees that Trump will continue his current momentum as he moves into the Nevada Republican Caucus on February 23 where he currently has a 22 point lead. It is to Trump’s benefit for Kasich and Carson to continue to hang in the race as long as possible. But even if they were both to drop out and their respective 7 and 6 percentage points in Nevada all went to either Cruz or Rubio, Trump would still take Nevada.
Jeb Bush’s suspending his campaign the night of his defeat in South Carolina after bringing his brother former President George W. Bush on the campaign trail with him shows that Bush has the dignity to get out of a race when he knows that his candidacy is a lost cause. As the son and brother of two former presidents, he knows the importance of listening to the American people and suspending what would have just become a vanity exercise. As to where Bush’s supporters will go, my guess is that most of them will go to Rubio and Cruz. Carson and Kasich have both conveyed that they are staying the race through Super Tuesday. While I keep predicting that Carson will leave the race, I now believe that he is going to stay in for symbolic reasons. He wants to stay the course. I don’t think he will run for president again. Kasich is also definitely staying in as long as he can. Given the importance of Ohio to the election, there has been of talk of Kasich as a Vice President pick for Trump, Rubio or Cruz.
As for Rubio and Cruz, their dead heat second and third place finish in South Carolina is a harbinger of their upcoming battle for the GOP establishment prize. We will be witness to the two young fire brands attacking each other on their records for who is the greater conservative for weeks to come. By mid-March, after Super Tuesday has come and gone, the GOP will officially be in a three man race between Donald Trump, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. Then the real fun begins as the race for who will be the Anti-Trump candidate heats up!