South Carolina & Nevada
The past 10 days has seen the adjudication of primary contests in South Carolina for the republicans and Nevada for both parties. With considerably less homogenous electorates, the states provide an opportunity for candidates to showcase their ability to resonate across a wider spectrum of voters. Candidates like Trump and Sanders whose appeal was deemed more or less confined to white voters, proved their tenability with wider demographics which will be crucial in states such as California and Texas. Trump’s resounding victory in Nevada would be less astonishing if it was not for the fact that he edged both Cruz and Rubio with Hispanics, despite his derogatory statements. Going into the Super Tuesday-states on March 1st, Trump’s 22-point trouncing of Rubio and 24 of Cruz provides him enough momentum to be able to dictate the conversation ahead of the momentous clash. The Super Tuesday of 2016 comprises a large portion of the south with states like, Texas, Tennessee, Georgia and Virginia with sizable delegate counts and if Trump captures three out of four he will most likely have the nomination wrapped up. If Cruz is beaten by Trump in his home state of Texas, he will have a difficult time making the case for his viability as a challenger to Trump.
Following his debacle on the debate stage in New Hampshire, Rubio has regained his strength on the back of a few solid debate performances and important endorsements and even though endorsements rarely sway voters, in this case they signal that the party establishment is rallying around Rubio. Rubio’s comeback comes at the expense of Cruz whose panic-ridden campaign sacked veteran media strategist Rick Tyler in an effort to shake things up as Rubio edged him in South Carolina to claim second place. In the same manner Rubio struggled for oxygen between his fellow establishment candidates Bush, Kasich and Christie, Cruz labours in the shadow of Trump for the anti-establishment hard-right wing of the party. The odds are that the contest will boil down to a struggle between Rubio and Trump as Kasich runs out of money following Super Tuesday. Last night featured an energetic and witty Rubio that trained his fire on Trump instead of Cruz, signaling that Cruz has been removed as his primary antagonist.
On the Democratic side, Sanders marginal loss in a state which was widely believed to be solidly behind Clinton serves to further increase her sense of being embattled. Both Clinton-spouses have been campaigning heavily in the state with a large African-American and Hispanic population in a state she is predicted to win. If Sanders finishes within the same margin as in Nevada, her charge that Sander’s appeal is limited and parochial will be seriously questioned. Look forward to a long night in the Palmetto sunshine.