James Shott / February 23, 2016

Beyond the South Carolina and Nevada Results

A deeper look at the numbers tells a story.

Hillary Clinton pulled out a crucial victory Saturday in the Nevada caucuses, despite a strong surge by Bernie Sanders, the declared socialist on the Democrat ticket. Clinton claimed 52.6% against 47.3% for Sanders, and earned 19 of the 34 delegates.

Reports of polls conducted by the Associated Press and Edison Research of voters arriving at 25 polling sites say that Clinton attracted the backing of voters who said that electability and experience were important, but Sanders did best with those looking for someone who is “caring and honest.” Clinton continues to garner votes, despite her high negatives.

The Nevada results are not without their questionable components. Democrat caucus-goers in Northern Nevada are reporting a wide range of problems from long lines and cards not being counted to being turned away and too few paper ballots, according to the Reno Gazette-Journal.

Adding some excitement to an otherwise rather dull event, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that a man appeared at the paper’s offices and filled out a standard obituary form identifying the deceased as Hillary Rodham Clinton, and listing her date of death as Feb. 20, 2016, the date of Democrat caucuses.

Republicans will caucus in Nevada tonight, and again Donald Trump is predicted to win with better than 40 percent of the vote, according to the Bing Political Index, but The Wall Street Journal predicts a much more contentious event than the Democrats had in their three-hour vote count last Saturday. The Journal expects something more like 2012 where it took officials days to count and certify the vote, and attributes this expectation to the “combination of a disorganized and underfunded state Republican Party, decentralized responsibility for reporting results and an electorate that has never seen a competitive presidential caucus.”

In the South Carolina Republican primary, Donald Trump won the state as expected, with 32.5% of the vote, about 10 points over Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, who scored a virtual tie for second place with 22+%.

South Carolina awards the primary winner 29 delegates outright, and three delegates to the winner in each of the state’s seven congressional districts. Trump won all 50 delegates.

Jeb Bush, John Kasich and Ben Carson wound up fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively, with between 7% and 8%. Seeing the writing on the wall, Jeb Bush suspended his campaign when the results of the Palmetto State voting became known, a move that has been anticipated for weeks among political observers, leaving just five of the original 17 Republicans still in the race.

Exit polls show Trump led in some key categories. Among those voters who “Feel Betrayed by Republican Politicians,” Trump garnered 36% of the vote, compared to 23% by Cruz and 19% by Rubio. Among white evangelicals, Trump scored 34%, against Cruz with 26%. And even among moderates and liberals, Trump led the field with 35%, ahead of Rubio at 22% and Kasich at 20%.

Perhaps the most surprising of those results was that Trump out-polled Cruz by eight points among white evangelicals — a group that makes up 67% of the electorate. NPR reported that 31% of South Carolina voters who said “religious beliefs mattered in casting their vote” chose Trump.

When Democrats march to South Carolina polling places on Saturday, Feb. 27 to decide between Hillary and Bernie, the Real Clear Politics average of five individual polls had Clinton winning by an average of 47.6% to 42.0%, with Clinton winning four of the five polls, and two of them by 11 and 10 points respectively, and Sanders only winning one poll, and then by a mere 3 points.

A group of 32 polls on FiveThirtyEight.com shows Clinton winning all 32 by margins ranging from 18 points to 56 points.

Again, actual voting will tell the tale that polls only hope to influence.

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