Trump lead in South Carolina narrows with tight battle for second; Clinton/Sanders too close to call in Nevada

By Dave Andrusko

Donald Trump

Donald Trump

My wife and I spent the better part of two days driving from the Midwest back to Virginia and we used that time to listen to a great deal of political coverage of the Democratic caucuses in Nevada and the Republican primary in South Carolina, both of which take place Saturday. Both races are tightening with Nevada now occupying that proverbial” too close to call” status.

There has been significant movement as well in South Carolina where Donald Trump remains the frontrunner but not with the size lead he had enjoyed a month ago. Two recent polls have Trump ahead, but by a dramatically lesser margin, and with a different number two candidate.

The most recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll found Mr. Trump getting 28% of likely South Carolina Republicans as compared to 23% for Sen. Ted Cruz (Tx.).

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio was third at 15 %, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush next at 13%, with Ohio Gov. John Kasich and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson tied at 9% each.

However a poll released today by Fox5 Atlanta found Trump with 27%, Rubio with 24%, and Cruz with 19%. They are followed by Bush with 11%, Carson at 8%, and Kasich with 7%.

Prior to the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, Mr. Trump enjoyed a 16% advantage.

Sen. Ted Cruz

Sen. Ted Cruz

Complicating the situation is that a record turnout is expected on Saturday.

Everything is topsy turvy in Nevada, symbolized by the unwillingness of a powerful union to endorse either pro-abortionist, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or Democratic Socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders.

A CNN/ORC poll released Wednesday found that “About 48 percent of likely caucus participants say they support Clinton, while 47 percent support Sanders,” reported Megan Messerly. ” The last CNN/ORC poll from October showed Clinton up by 16 points, with 50 percent voter support. … The poll also shows 25 percent of likely Democratic caucusgoers are still trying to decide who to support, compared to 62 percent who said they have definitely decided and 13 percent leaning toward a candidate.”

The dean of Nevada political reporters, Jon Ralston, published a piece yesterday in USA Today under the headline, “Five questions that will decide Nevada.”

Leading into the five questions part of his op-eed, Ralston wrote

Nevada will decide Saturday whether Hillary Clinton’s campaign moves from intense fretting to full-blown panic or whether the Bernie Sanderssurge goes from real to evanescent. …[T]he Sanders momentum has moved Nevada from a can’t-miss to a could-kill state for Clinton.

Sen. Marco Rubio

Sen. Marco Rubio

There are several obvious questions having to do with turnout (including the fact that independents can register as Democrats for a day and vote in the caucuses) and enthusiasm (“can the Hillary machine douse the Bern”) and the impact of last-minute television ads.

Ralston concludes

If Clinton wins, she reverses Sanders’ momentum and probably defeats him in South Carolina. But she was expected to win here since last spring and only recently began to see her lock getting picked.

If Sanders wins, though, he will have won two states in a row and may cause a ripple effect into South Carolina. And he will have sent a clear message that if he can win here, he can win anywhere.

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