Politics Ain't Beanbag
Rep. Duncan Hunter exits the race with barely a whisper, and the vaunted candidacy of former Sen. Fred Thompson ends unceremoniously with a distant third place finish in the Palmetto State.
Former Gov. Romney claims the Nevada caucuses on the Republican side, but places 4th behind Thompson in South Carolina despite a $4 million ad buy.
Former Sen. John Edwards admits he "got his butt kicked" in the Nevada caucuses, but vows to stay in the race through the convention.
Finally, the Clinton's (Bill and Hillary) continue a sparring match with Sen. Barack Obama throughout the King Holiday weekend.
Need I remind you that the general election is more than 9 months away? What follows is a wrap up of Saturday's results and a forecast for what lies ahead in the coming week.
Hillary Clinton defeated Barack Obama in the Nevada caucuses 51-45%, but they may emerge with the same number of delegates on account of funky caucus math. Clinton won the Latino vote in the Silver State over Obama by a 2-1 margin as members of the Culinary Workers Union that endorsed the Illinois Senator abandoned ship and went with Hillary. African-American voters, on the other hand, sided with Obama by a 4-1 margin! Edwards finished with only 4% of the vote, sending him spiraling into his native South Carolina in need of some home cooking.
Unfortunately for the former NC Senator, this appears once more as a two-horse race with Obama poised to win if he replicates his success among African-American voters in a state where they comprise half of the Democratic electorate. Obama leads Clinton anywhere from 6 to 13 percentage points in recent polls, and the NY senator is largely conceding this contest, instead focusing on more winnable Feb. 5 states in the West like AZ, CA, and NM. Edwards' presence in the contest further dilutes white support for Clinton, but this may play into her hands as the race moves to Florida should Obama be cast as a candidate appealing only to his racial peers.
Mitt Romney won the Nevada caucuses with 51% of the vote, besting Ron Paul (14%), John McCain (13%), former Gov. Mike Huckabee (8%), Fred Thompson (8%), and former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (4%). Romney was the only candidate to campaign seriously in the Silver State, and he benefited from the almost unconditional support of Mormons (94% voted for the former Massachusetts governor) in the state, along with voters concerned about the economy and illegal immigration.
Romney's moment in the spotlight was shortlived as John McCain claimed victory in the Palmetto State hours later. McCain bested his closest challenger Huckabee 33-30%, with Fred Thompson (16%), Romney (15%), Paul (4%) and Giuliani (2%) pulling up the rear. McCain won once more on the backs of independents and moderates within the Republican Party, although he competed with toe-to-toe with Huckabee and others among church regulars, evangelicals, and conservatives. The victory comes with more than a little vindication 8 years after his bitter defeat at the hands of George W. Bush, and installs the AZ senator as the favorite for the GOP nomination in a state who has picked the nominee correctly in every election since Ronald Reagan in 1980.
The GOP race turns next to Florida, with a closed primary scheduled for Jan. 29, one week from today. Remember, this is where former frontrunner Rudy Giuliani has staked his late-state fortunes. Anything less than a top-two finish would send the former NY mayor back to the Big Apple. Mitt Romney also figures to finish in the top three fresh off victories last week in Michigan and Nevada, along with a more fine-tuned message focusing on his economic credentials and a personal fortune he has already tapped to the tune of $20 million. McCain heads south with a breeze at his back and threatens to steal Rudy's thunder amongst moderates and defense hawks. Huckabee will only dab his toes in the state's balmy waters, hoping to keep his name in the mix as Tsunami Tuesday nears with several southern contests on the map.
Early polls show the lead alternating between McCain and Romney, with Rudy in a close third and Huckabee fading fast. Most projections are within the margin of error, so this is a statistical tie with one week to go in a contest critical in building momentum for the threatening tsunami. With major ad buys by the three frontruners, newspaper endorsements and divided establishment support, the complexion of the contest is certain to change in the next seven days.
I'll return on Friday with SC predictions for the Democrats, and will do the same for both parties in Florida on Monday. Click here to listen to the latest Freedom Museum podcast recorded this morning where Nathan Richie and I analyze the current state of the presidential race.