It was just one day. The Republicans had a primary in South Carolina and the Democrats ran a caucus in Nevada. Neither are big states, yet both sent defining messages to each party’s fields Saturday with solid victories by Donald Trump in SC and Hillary Clinton in Nevada.
For Republicans, the Trump victory means this left-leaning, former pro-choice, supporter of Planned Parenthood and detractor of the Iraq War is the likely GOP nominee.
Reince Priebus and the rest of the Republican leadership are fitfully wrestling with how to make this work.
It’s one thing to be a Republican challenger for the nomination and insinuating the sitting president might be more likely to attend Antonin Scalia’s funeral if it were held at a mosque. It’s a whole other concession for the entire party to be forced to align behind such inflammatory, undisciplined and ill-mannered statements.
None of Trump’s missteps have stuck yet, but as the field narrows specifics matter. The appearance of being presidential becomes important – this in particular is where Trump falls short.
That being said, Trump’s victory in such a staunch evangelical stronghold is troubling for Sen. Ted Cruz (TX). With a third place finish in South Carolina, where is Cruz’s niche messaging going to resonate.
While Rubio rebounded to finish second in SC, he has a similar problem. These close finishes are uplifting, but where can Rubio win?
The Republican results did satisfy in putting a merciful end to the Jeb Bush campaign. It was painfully obvious from the start his candidacy failed to launch.
The campaigns for Ben Carson and Gov. John Kasich (OH) continue to limp forward, but for how long?
While the Democratic field has already narrowed, a similar salvo was fired across the bow of Bernie Sanders after Clinton comfortably won Nevada.
It’s widely reported Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) called labor organizers to request they deliver the casino workers for Clinton, even if the union was not going to offer a formal candidate endorsement. That was enough to get the victory.
While the Sanders campaign has illuminated the inequalities Wall Street enjoys over Main Street, the Vermont senator needs to demonstrate he can win.
Clinton’s victory garnered an impressive percentage of the African-American and minority vote. Demographics are indicating she will see similar support in South Carolina.
That is a bad trend line for Sanders. Clinton still has work to do on her “believability” factor, and there could be fallout yet from the ongoing State Department or FBI investigations, but short of that, she is a pro. Clinton went through a tough nomination battle with Barack Obama in 2008 and has learned from that.
In fact she hired many of Obama’s former field operatives.
I’m impressed with the lack of turmoil out of the Clinton camp after losing in New Hampshire. She came back and delivered a solid debate performance and a victory in Nevada.
She can’t take anything for granted, but it’s starting to look like Clinton has a pathway to start banking convention delegates, and Sanders may not be able to stop that.
So here we are in late February, nine months into this election process and finally some clarity is coming into focus.
Don’t take your seat belts off yet. There’s bound to be a few more unforeseen dips and bumps, but perhaps the individuals that will stand for the general election are crystallizing.
It will be worth the wait to see Clinton and Trump square off on a debate stage.