COLUMBIA, SC – Hours after Hillary Clinton won a close but decisive victory over Bernie Sanders in the Nevada Democratic Caucus, which as of this writing is about five points, all eyes turned to the Republicans.
It didn’t take long for the major networks to call the election for Donald Trump – CNN held out the longest, and once they made it unanimous, Trump headquarters erupted in applause. Marco Rubio took second place, narrowly besting Ted Cruz, who doubled down on his attack ads against both Trump and Cruz, but who as of this writing will come in a distant second or third.
Far behind the top three were Jeb Bush – who made the night’s other big news by dropping out of the race about an hour after the results were announced – John Kasich, and Dr. Ben Carson.
Bush’s campaign never gained traction, even as big brother George came into the Palmetto State – where he remains politically popular – to help. But his big money donors have to go somewhere, and all indicators suggest that at least to some extent, Bush’s mentee Rubio stands to gain the most. By default, Rubio is the viable establishment candidate – though Kasich is more traditional establishment, his campaign, like Bush’s has been listless to this point, other than a respectable second-place showing in New Hampshire.
Hillary’s Nevada victory indicates her overwhelming support over Sanders among African-American voters, a key demographic in the Democratic primary. Given the South’s large African-American population, Hillary is favored to build on her small overall lead to this point.
The Republican picture is also far from clear, and a great deal may depend on who else drops out and when. The more candidates in the race, the more that benefits Trump, as they all have a share of the anti-Trump vote. If it’s down to Trump and one other candidate, that might make for a very interesting spring, and a nomination that may not be decided until the summer.