Feb. 23, 2016 — South Carolina Republicans went to the polls in record numbers (737,924 voter turnout, far surpassing the previous high of 601,166; a 23 percent increase) on Saturday to give Donald Trump all 50 of the state’s delegates.
Because South Carolina uses a Winner-Take-All by congressional district system, Trump placing first in all seven seats gave him a combined 21 delegates. Matched with the 29 at-large delegates he received for winning the statewide count, a backdoor Winner-Take-All result occurred.
In Nevada, while Hillary Clinton’s 53-47 percent win in the Democratic Caucuses was close, the psychological effect and momentum swing prove greater than her percentage margin. A Bernie Sanders victory could have begun to seriously unravel the Clinton campaign just when the former Secretary of State was fighting to overcome the aftermath of a frayed early start. Safely clearing Nevada, she is now has the chance to score big in her strongest geographical region: the South.
The Silver State turnout pattern was opposite of that found in South Carolina, however. Here, caucus participation dropped more than 30 percent when compared to the last competitive Democratic nomination campaign, that of 2008.
Though Trump increased his Republican delegate lead to 67-11-10-5-3 over his four remaining opponents: Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, John Kasich, and Ben Carson, respectively, he is still has only five percent of what he needs to secure the Republican nomination. As we all know by now, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush suspended his campaign on Saturday night after the Palmetto State’s result became public, so he is no longer a factor.
The crunch time will begin on March 1 and continue through March 15. By that time, 32 GOP voting entities will have recorded their votes, and all of the remaining candidates have strategies for accumulating the most possible delegates.
While Trump had the best possible delegate accumulation night, his popular vote take was only 32.5 percent, far below majority support. Senators Cruz and Rubio combined approached 45 percent, meaning this nomination battle still has a long way to go despite Trump winning two of the first three events and looking robust through March 15. While he may be stronger than the other candidates the early leader is not a majority levels, meaning that a contested Republican convention is still a distinct possibility.
Senators Cruz and Rubio will continue to battle each other to become Trump’s principal opponent. Both of their delegate-rich home state constituents will soon vote (Texas: March 1, 20 percent vote threshold; Florida: March 15, Winner-Take-All), and it will be essential for each to take advantage of his home turf.
Look for Ohio Gov. Kasich to emphasize the northern Super Tuesday states of Minnesota, Massachusetts, and Vermont. March 8 will be important for him because of the Michigan primary. March 15, especially with his own Ohio Winner-Take-All primary, along with Illinois and North Carolina voting that day, will likely be make-or-break for him … if, he makes it that far.
Dr. Ben Carson has virtually no path to victory and will likely exit the race in the near future, but will probably stay through Super Tuesday.
Democrats next go to South Carolina on Saturday, and Clinton enjoys big polling leads. The latest available public survey there, from the American Research Group (Feb. 17-18; 400 likely South Carolina Democratic primary voters), finds her enjoying a 61-32 percent landslide advantage over Sen. Sanders.
While the popular vote has cumulatively favored Sanders through the first three Democratic voting events, the former Secretary of State’s delegate lead is almost to an insurmountable range. According to unofficial counts that include all of the Super Delegates who have publicly announced support for either candidate, though such pronouncements are not legally binding, Clinton has 502 delegate votes as compared to just 70 for Sen. Sanders.
The seven southern March 1 Super Tuesday voting states, after Saturday’s South Carolina Democratic primary, could effectively clinch the nomination for Clinton, and unofficially end the primary campaign.