Clinton Puts Campaign Back on Track in Nevada

The former secretary of state’s first outright victory confirms that she is still faraway the favorite for the nomination.

Former American secretary of state Hillary Clinton campaigns in Nevada, February 15
Former American secretary of state Hillary Clinton campaigns in Nevada, February 15 (Hillary for America/Samuel Fisch)

Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton won the Democratic Party’s presidential caucuses in Nevada on Saturday, besting her socialist rival, Bernie Sanders, with 52 to 48 percent support.

The victory is a relief for Clinton who was widely expected to win the nomination at the start of the contest but suffered losses in the first two voting states.

NBC News reports that Sanders was hoping to use Nevada “to prove himself as a viable candidate in a state with an electorate made up of more minority voters and fewer self-described liberals than the race’s earlier contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.”

The Vermont senator effectively tied with Clinton in the first voting state and defeated her in the second.

Back on track

Clinton’s margin of victory in Nevada is small and only some 80,000 people participated in the caucuses.

FiveThirtyEight estimates that Clinton will get between eighteen and twenty of Nevada’s 35 pledged delegates for the nominating convention in the summer. Sanders would win between fifteen and seventeen.

All the same, the victory should help stop Democrats handwringing about Clinton’s prospects and gives credence to the argument this website made last year, which is that support from “the” Democratic Party at large will prove decisive.

Clinton has not only been endorsed by virtually every Democratic senator, congressman and governor; in Nevada, she was also supported by many of the trade unions.

Typical Democrat

Whereas Sanders calls for a “political revolution” that will alter the way politics is done in America, Clinton is running a more traditional campaign.

As we argued earlier this month, drawing on the work of political scientists David A. Hopkins and Matt Grossmann, the Democratic Party is best understood as a coalition of interest and identity groups: gays, feminists, racial minorities, union voters. Clinton is appealing to every one of those constituencies.

Sanders’ laments about money in politics resonate more with young and better-off white voters. The fact that he could not win in a racially diverse state that was among the hardest hit in the recession does not bode well for him.

South Carolina, which holds its Republican primary today, votes for the Democrats next week. Most of the states that vote on “Super Tuesday” in early March are also in the South. Blacks, Hispanics, middle-class moderates and working-class whites make up a larger share of the electorate there than they do in Iowa and New Hampshire. All of which should benefit Clinton.

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