Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton grabbed a much-needed victory in the Nevada Democratic caucus Saturday, proving that the 2016 Democratic nomination contest is clearly still competitive. While Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders ran strongly in the state’s caucuses, losing to Clinton 52.1 percent to 47.8 percent with 82 percent of precincts reporting, Clinton’s win shows that Sanders’ double-digit victory in New Hampshire didn’t necessarily represent a massive, permanent shift to the challenger.
The two candidates will now face off in South Carolina's Democratic primary next Saturday, where Clinton is widely expected to win, buoyed at least in part by support that she expects from African-American voters. Just days later, the two will face off in the biggest day of the primary season March 1, also known as Super Tuesday.
“To all my supporters out there—some may have doubted us, but we never doubted each other. This one’s for you,” Clinton said in Nevada Saturday after her victory was announced.
While Nevada shows that Clinton has staying power in this election, she is also clearly much more vulnerable than pundits expected when Sanders entered the race last year. An email from his campaign indicates that Sanders may already be looking past next weekend’s South Carolina primary, focusing instead on a big showing in the Super Tuesday contests when 12 states will hold primaries.
“I am also proud of the fact that we have brought many working people and young people into the political process and believe that we have the wind at our back as we head toward Super Tuesday,” Sanders said in an email after the Nevada results came in. “I want to thank the people of Nevada for their support that they have given us and the boost that their support will give us as we go forward.”
“I’ve never believed in dividing America between ‘us’ and ‘them.’ We are all in this together. We all have to do our part.” —Hillary
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) February 20, 2016
Clinton still maintains a lead over Sanders in averages of national polls (even if it has shrunk recently). As the nominating season proceeds through March, many states are viewed as favorable to Clinton.
On the Republican side, a large field may be favoring businessman Donald Trump, who led polls ahead of the South Carolina Republican primary that was taking place Saturday. Trump represents an "outsider" candidacy, and in addition to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, another perceived outsider, there are at least three so-called "establishment" candidates still in the race: Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. In order to beat Trump, those three candidates may have to coalesce around only one candidate to proceed. Polls show that in a three-person race with Cruz and Rubio, for example, Trump does not win.