Well, South Carolina (Republicans) and Nevada (Democrats) are in the books. And as most everyone probably knows by now, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were the winners from each state. Neither victory was really that big of a surprise considering both had been favored to win. Though being that Nevada is incredibly difficult to poll, there were some serious questions about who was really the “favorite” there between Clinton and Sanders.
That being said, for me, these two states marked the real beginning of when these primaries start getting good. Not to discount Iowa or New Hampshire, but as I’ve pointed out before, neither state has ever proven to be a reliable predictor of a party’s nominee or an eventual president.
So, with that said, here are my top takeaways from Saturday’s results.
1. Hillary Clinton got a win she really needed: Coming off a sound defeat in New Hampshire, and an extremely close victory in Iowa, Clinton needed some sort of “statement.” While a six point victory isn’t “huge,” it’s sizable enough to not be discounted like some did her victory in Iowa. Not only that, but with South Carolina and Super Tuesday looking incredibly strong for her right now, this win looks like one of many over the next several weeks that can really help re-energize a campaign that had been rather flat for about a month.
2. This is a pretty big blow for Bernie Sanders: Is the state of Nevada particularly important? No, not really. It’s one state with many more to go. But in many ways Sanders needed this win to prove he can get victories in more diverse states. With South Carolina and Super Tuesday looking ugly for him, this was a state he could have used to soften the blow his campaign is about to take. The bottom line is, Sanders is going to have to prove he can win, not just do well, in some of these states where Clinton is the favorite. If he can’t get a win in some of these more diverse states where most liberals aren’t white, he’s going to get blown out in this race.
3. Voter turnout: For the third straight state voter turnout was lower than what we saw in 2008. For someone like Sanders who’s been championing “bringing people into the political process” – he’s not really doing it. Not to say that voter turnout has been bad, but it’s not better than 2008. And while President Obama won soundly in 2008, his victory didn’t bring super majorities in both the House and the Senate – something Sanders would definitely need to accomplish any of his campaign promises if he were to become president. So I’m not really sure how he keeps selling this answer of a “political revolution” whenever he’s asked how he plans to accomplish his extremely transformative goals. The facts simply aren’t supporting the foundation on which his campaign has been built, and that will have to change for him to truly succeed.
4. Donald Trump is going to be nearly impossible to beat with both Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz in the race: The reality is, Trump is basically “topped out.” While his lead over his opponents has been sizable, his actual numbers haven’t grown in months. In fact, as candidates continue to drop out, his lead shrinks. As long as Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are essentially splitting a lot of the same type of voters, I don’t see how either can overtake Trump. At some point, the RNC is going to have to put pressure on one of the two to drop out if they want any realistic chance of keeping Trump from becoming their nominee.
5. Poor Jeb Bush: Maybe I’m a softy, but I actually feel kind of bad for the guy. Politics aside, he’s still a human being and you can tell this campaign flat-out demoralized him. Please clap.
6. Marco Rubio and his “victory” speeches are getting ridiculous: Correct me if I’m wrong, but Marco Rubio hasn’t actually won a state, right? He finished third in Iowa, fifth in New Hampshire and was essentially tied for second with Cruz in South Carolina. Not only that, but he’s lost back-to-back states by double-digits. He seems unaware that to become the party’s nominee he has to actually win a few of these states first.
7. Ben Carson might be staying in to hurt Ted Cruz: This is just a thought, but part of me wonders if there aren’t people within the party pushing him to stay in the race to pull some evangelical support away from Cruz to help the RNC’s golden boy, Marco Rubio. While Carson isn’t getting much support, if even four of his average of six points he’s currently polling nationally goes to Cruz (which is possible), that would put him in a solid second place over Rubio. Again, this is just a thought, but it’s something to think about.
8. If recent political history is any indication, Donald Trump now has a 50 percent chance at becoming our next president: Since 1980, every single president has won the South Carolina primary for their party. In fact, between both parties, only two candidates (Newt Gingrich in 2012 and John Edwards in 2004) didn’t go on to eventually win the nomination. So, if history is any indicator, our next president is either going to be Donald Trump or the winner of the South Carolina Democratic primary on February 27th. Results may vary, of course.
While I could list a few more, I’ll wrap it up there.
For those interested, Republicans caucus in Nevada on Tuesday the 23rd and Democrats go to the polls in South Carolina Saturday the 27th.
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