Thinking about South Carolina and beyond

My friend Barry Casselman has a bit of advice for everyone:

The results from the Democratic Nevada caucus and the Republican South Carolina primary did not provide any big surprises, but they also did not provide the winners with any big boosts.

In Nevada, Hillary Clinton won a narrow victory in a caucus that only brought out a small percentage of those eligible to vote, as is the case in all caucuses. The caucus vote was also reported to be down one-third from 2008, the last time the event was competitive. Not only that, exit polls indicated Mrs. Clinton lost voters who valued “honesty” and “trustworthiness” by an astonishing 9-1.That Mr. Sanders and his late-surging campaign came as close as he did to beat Mrs. Clinton can only strengthen his surging campaign as the contest heads toward Super Tuesday on March 1. Mrs. Clinton is also expected to win the Democratic South Carolina primary next week. She remains the frontrunner, but her lackluster performance and the Nevada exit polls will continue to provide profound concern for her party and its leaders.

In South Carolina, Donald Trump won but his margin was not quite as large as expected. Marco Rubio came in second; Ted Cruz, a less-than-expected third, Jeb Bush, John Kasich and Ben Carson trailed in single digits. Mr. Bush has now retired from the race. Mr. Kasich perhaps remains a while longer. Mr. Cruz probably remains in the race indefinitely. Dr. Carson stays in perhaps until his resources run out. Barring the unforeseen, however, Marco Rubio is now the candidate of the Republican mainstream grass roots. As such, he will again be a prime target of his rivals. Governor Christie might have done Mr. Rubio a favor before New Hampshire by preparing him then for what is to come now.

Next week, it will be the Republicans’ turn in Nevada, and the Democrats’ turn in South Carolina, but the main drama now shifts to the March 1 Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses, 13 of them.

The Democratic contest remains muddied; the Republican race has been made clearer, but its outcome is not yet assured.

Let me add a couple of thoughts:

First, South Carolina and Nevada were a contrast in turnout.  In other words, the GOP turned out, and the Democrats really didn't, as we saw in news reports: GOP up 20% from 2012 and the Democrats 33% down from 2008!

It's early, and there are big states around the corner.  Nevertheless, we can say today that Republicans are excited and Democrats are not.  It may not matter in the primaries, because Mrs. Clinton is headed for the nomination.  It may be a problem next fall when she has to get all of these groups to get up and vote.

Second, Donald Trump won, but this is not over by any means.  He is not running any table, unless he suddenly starts getting 51% of the vote in the next month!

Once again, we see Mr. Trump winning with about 33% of the vote.  In other words, 67% are voting for a number of other candidates.   

Over the next few weeks, we will know whether Senator Cruz can turn his campaign around.  He may have money and a ground game, but does he have votes?

We will also learn where Governor Bush’s voters go.  My guess is that they won't go to Trump!

We have a long way to go, but it was a good night for Senator Rubio.  He is the one most likely to win the nomination after South Carolina.  And the polls show that he is the one who beats Mrs. Clinton over and over again!

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