The overall outcome of today’s Super Tuesday Democratic contests are little in doubt; going back, people will say the Nevada caucus was the moment when Clinton secured her path that led to her nomination.
Originally published on LinkedIn Pulse March 1, 2016
Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons
This piece builds on earlier analysis in a separate piece, but has been updated for Super Tuesday.
AMMAN — The February 20th Democratic Caucus in Nevada will quite likely be remembered as the contest by which Hillary Clinton secured her trajectory to becoming the Democratic nominee as she is now virtually impossible to stop given Super Tuesday is here and time is out for Bernie Sanders’ campaign do much of anything to change what are clear and dominant trends in today’s crucial contests. The effort to create suspense and drama by all parties involved belies the fact that there is very little suspense or drama.
After losing so badly in New Hampshire, Clinton had reason to be nervous: Bernie Sanders had a big wave of momentum he was riding from his big New Hampshire victory, momentum that was generating a lot of good media coverage and millions in new donations, while Team Clinton was beset by negative press coverage and a Sanders campaign that was out-fundraising a Clinton campaign that was finding it harder to bring in new money. Recent polls even showed a much closer race between her and Sanders nationally, and one Fox News poll even had him slightly ahead.
To make matters worse, polling data on Nevada, the first contest after New Hampshire, was particularly sparse and known to be unreliable, and the few polls that did come out showed a very tight race between her and Sanders there. It was very possible that Sanders would win Nevada. In that situation, Sanders would then have won two, and barely lost one, of the first four contests; in this situation, Clinton could have seen her sizable lead in South Carolina shrink (even if not overcome), raising questions about how loyal key Clinton constituencies would be going into Super Tuesday. A narrative of significantly weakening support would be one of the last things she needed at this point.
For Sanders, Nevada was going to be an opportunity to steal some support from Latinos and African-Americans, the latter being such a crucial demographic in the ensuing South Carolina Democratic primary and in the following Super Tuesday contests only three days later; Sanders’ coalition had thus far been narrow, and it would be do-or-die for him to win voters from more diverse backgrounds than his largely white and liberal base. Yet it was going to be a tough sell to people naturally more skeptical of grand promises given their challenging collective historical experiences.
A debate shortly before Nevada was a chance for him to gain with these groups, but this he failed to do as Clinton skillfully targeted her message to address the concerns of these groups, compared with his more modest attempts to speak to them using that national stage.
When the Nevada caucuses finally happened, Sanders lost by a clear margin and did terribly with black voters, and while the entrance pollshowed he won Latinos, 1.) most (about 90%) of those people were surveyed when the poll results showed Sanders beating Clinton in the early wave and only about 10% were surveyed after the initial wave, when far more people went for Clinton, 2.) there are difficulties in accurately polling Latinos in these situations, and 3.) the preponderance of evidence showed that Clinton outperformed Sanders with Latinos, showing that she did very wellin the most heavily Latino precincts, so despite a confusing entrance poll, it seems Sanders did not beat Clinton with Latinos.
More importantly for Clinton’s immediate concerns, she demolished Sanders in terms of support from African-Americans one week before the South Carolina Democratic primary, where a majority of participants would be black voters. Clinton went on to crush Sanders there so thoroughly that she exceeded expectation, beating him by 47.5 percentage points, 73.5% to 26%, and 86% to 14% with African-Americans.
Today, eleven states, including delegate-rich Texas, vote on the Democratic side, and many of them have diverse, large populations that far more resemble Nevada and South Carolina than New Hampshire; in nearly all of them, Clinton has huge double-digit leads, many by more than 20 percentage points. Clinton’s clear win in Nevada made it clear Sanders was failing to broaden his coalition; her blowout win in South Carolina made even most Sanders partisans question his viability, and there is no sign he will dramatically broaden that support today in defiance of a mass of polling.
With Clinton’s already huge huge lead in delegates about to get far larger today, and with a large number of other states voting in the weeks after Super Tuesday, it is almost impossible to see a path for Sanders’ winning the nomination absent either a health crisis for Clinton or an FBI indictment related to its probe of the handling of subsequently classified material in relation to Clinton’s personal e-mail server, both extremely unlikely scenarios despite loud Republican claims to the contrary regarding the latter.
Sanders did have a viable path to the nomination that still would have been difficult but far from impossible to achieve: a win in Nevada, a show of clear gains with African-Americans and/or Latinos and, therefore, momentum heading into South Carolina and Super Tuesday, and picking up sizable numbers of delegates throughout the March primaries, which itself would limit the number of delegates Clinton would pick up.
Now, that simply won’t happen, not in time for these key contests; the idea that huge masses of voters who already have not will quickly and suddenly buy into his objectively unrealistic program and its near-zero chances of being implemented are tiny and decreasing every day as time runs out. Instead, Clinton will be picking up more money, positive media coverage, and endorsements just when she needs to, and is virtually certainly to win the nomination.
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Other Super Tuesday coverage from this author:
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