Today is the day of the third contests during the 2016 nomination for both the Democrats and Republicans. Republicans have the South Carolina primary, and Democrats have the Nevada caucus. While it seems like there were months of coverage leading up to the Iowa and New Hampshire contests, Nevada and South Carolina have only been on the front page of the news in the 10 days we've had since New Hampshire. Here's what to expect today:
Democratic Nevada Caucus
The big question for this contest is going to be whether Bernie Sanders was able to be successful in his effort to expand his outreach to Latino voters. There's been a criminal lack of polling in this state; RealClearPolitics show only 3 polls have come out this year. They all show a huge increase in Sanders support over last year's numbers, but I think that is more due to the natural progression of the campaign with Sanders becoming a primetime challenger to Clinton. Yes he has done very well for himself so far, especially in New Hampshire, but today will go a long way towards answering the question of whether he can actually be a viable general election candidate for the Democrats. It remains to be seen what the answer to that question is, but I believe Hillary Clinton will still emerge victorious from today's caucuses. Bernie Sanders has gotten closer than I expected he would be able to, but I still believe Clinton will squeak out victory by a few points:
Hillary Clinton: 51%
Bernie Sanders: 49%
Republican South Carolina Primary
According to RCP, in January three polls came out for the GOP South Carolina primary. In February, we've had roughly 24 come out. This gives a much clearer picture of what is going on with this race. Still, there are plenty of open questions that will be answered in today's bloodbath. Firstly, is how far will Trump fall? The polls over the last week clearly show him heading towards the rest of the pack in terms of poll numbers. His lead over Ted Cruz has reduced from close to 20 points to now somewhere around 12 or 13. Maybe attacking President George W. Bush was a bad idea on Trump's part. Even still, his lead looks commanding enough that he still should be able to pull off a victory here, even if it is by 4 or 5 points instead of 10 or 15.
Of more consequence than how Donald Trump fares, is how the rest of the field will perform. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are in an effective dead heat right now, with Rubio just barely pulling ahead of Cruz in the polling averages over the last couple of days. This is going to be a very close contest for 2nd place, but I think that Marco Rubio will come out slightly ahead. It seems like during the last few days, Ted Cruz has been getting a lot negative coverage. Everyone and their mother is calling him a liar, and he is a candidate that is certainly unlikely to get much sympathy from the media. For Trump, this doesn't matter as this is what draws his supporters to him. Cruz, on the other hand, is vying for the votes of evangelicals, and these persistent attacks on his character and integrity may prove to be his undoing in in the end. He does very well with voters who want a candidate who "shares my values," but especially in the last week he has been getting pummeled on this from all sides. Additionally, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley endorsed Rubio earlier this week, and she is a very high profile and popular governor with an approval rating somewhere around 80%. This will help him a little bit at the polls.
Now, for the rest of the field. Jeb Bush is currently polling in fourth place, and if that is where he places, he really ought to call it quits with this campaign.In order for him to maintain even a semblance of viability, he needs to place very close to Rubio and Cruz (unlikely) or better yet, ahead of one of them (even more unlikely). Having his brother campaign for him hasn't seemed to help his anemic poll numbers. For John Kasich, South Carolina is not a state where is expected to do well, but he would certainly love to surprise people and place ahead of Bush. He isn't expecting to win any primaries until Michigan on March 8. That's a long way to go waiting for a win and the big MO, especially with Super Tuesday coming up. Still, his campaign would be optimistic that he could do fairly well here. He did, after all, place 2nd in New Hampshire, and Kasich has been doing great connecting with voters on a personal basis and during town halls. As for Ben Carson, I'm pretty sure at this point he is staying in the race to hurt/spite Ted Cruz. Seeing as that is the case, I think Carson will drop out after this race if Ted Cruz either does worse than expected or much better. If Cruz gets a low 3rd place, Carson will probably figure his work is done of damaging Cruz and will leave the race. If Cruz ends up in a high 2nd place, or even 1st, it will be clear that Carson's strategy to harm Cruz has not been effective, and he will drop out. So after all that, here's what I think South Carolina will look like after the dust has settled:
Donald Trump: 26%
Marco Rubio: 23%
Ted Cruz: 21%
John Kasich: 13%
Jeb Bush: 11%
Ben Carson: 5%
Stay in touch with NonProphetNews to see whether these predictions turn out to be embarrassingly wrong or right on the money!