Saturday, February 20, 2016

South Carolina (R) and Nevada (D)

Things are beginning to clarify, it seems. I just got an email from the Bernie campaign touting his close finish as a good sign for the rest of the race. In a way, that's right--a five point win looks mighty anemic for one of Hillary's "firewall" states. And yet as much of a moral victory as it was for Bernie, it was a state he needed to win if he was going to actually get the nomination. The math gets very tough going forward. SC is great Hillary country, and then we go to Super Tuesday, with lots of southern (read: diverse) states. She will likely have a pretty hefty delegate lead on March 2. Bernie's path was always very narrow. It gets narrower now.

The GOP side is getting interesting. In his worst case, it looks like Trump has about 35% of the vote. It's not clear he can build much on that--it's certainly not clear he has a majority of the GOP. So how does a guy with a minority of the party win the nomination? He depends on a splintered field. As Sean Balkwill noted, Trump is going to get most of the delegates out of SC. So long as there continue to be four or five candidates in the field, he can continue to win states with 35%.

Fascinatingly, the fact that Trump may not have majority support is exactly why the other candidates may stay in the race. They'll all calculate that in a two-man race, they could beat Trump. They will probably all see enough good news in the SC results to stick with it until Super Tuesday on March 1, hoping to poach a state or two and revive their campaigns. By that time, Trump may well have a substantial delegate lead. (It might even be better for him to lose a few states on March 1 if they go to different challengers.)

If Cruz finishes 3rd, I don't see how he wins the nomination--though he'll definitely stick around until Super Tuesday, when Texas votes.

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