Clinton, Romney Win Nevada Caucuses, McCain Wins South Carolina

UPDATE: McCain wins South Carolina, Huckabee finishes 2nd

Clinton pulled out a narrow victory in Nevada of about 5%. Obama won everywhere outside of Clark county, and so he could have won the whole thing if the Strip precincts and union vote in Clark county had gone his way. However, the insider scoop is that AFSCME out organized the culinary workers on The Strip, and generally made the difference for Clinton across the county (UNITE-HERE apparently has little in the way of political staff). To put it one way, Obama might have had more unions, but Clinton's unions just did better. In some ways, that even reinforces one of Clinton's main campaign arguments: beyond grand speeches and huge rallies, she will work harder and get the job done both with and for what she calls "the invisible people."

Most of the last tens days in Nevada focused on unions, from the endorsements to the lawsuit over the Strip caucuses. This was definitely the Labor caucus, just as the DNC had designed it to be. In a very real way, the results are emblematic of the divide in the Democratic Party. The NEA tacitly supported Clinton, and AFSCME is now pretty much the flagship union of the AFL-CIO, at least in terms of political organizing. By contrast, SEIU and UNITE-HERE, both of which endorsed Obama in Nevada, are key unions in Change to Win. Old labor beat new labor, just as older Dems beat newer Dems.

On to South Carolina next Saturday. Clinton is now the clear frontunner, Obama needs a big win to stay in it, and Edwards appears to be done.

****

Romney's enormous victory in Nevada tells us several things about today:
1. Nevada Polls Way Off: First, Romney looks like he won with about 46%-47% of the vote, beating McCain by more than 30%. In fact, it appears that Ron Paul finished second in Nevada ahead of McCain, and did so by at least 5%. Both of these results are nowhere near the pre-caucus polls, none of which had shown Paul higher than fourth, Romney ahead by more than 15%, or McCain below 19%. So, our first lesson is that Nevada polls are entirely unreflective of Nevada results so far.
2. Activists and organization matters. Once again, Ron Paul has decisively outperformed the polls in a caucus, and McCain has under-performed. Romney, the favorite of the Republican establishment, did very well. The lesson here, I think, is that organization and activists matter, and that McCain has neither. Clinton's edge with the establishment, and Obama's edge with unions and activists should matter. Then again, since Todd Beeton thinks that Clinton's final rally was better attended than Obama's, perhaps Obama does not have an activist edge in Nevada.
3. McCain is in real trouble: Almost all of McCain's support is soft support and media driven, which is why he will do poorly in caucuses and closed primaries as the campaign moves forward. If he loses South Carolina tonight, which is starting to seem quite likely, there is no way he can be considered the frontrunner anymore. On the Republican side, there are very few open primaries on Super Tuesday, and even fewer if one discounts the southern primaries where Huckabee will be favored should he win South Carolina. If McCain goes down tonight, he will have a difficult time getting back up.
Interesting results so far. The Democratic caucuses in Nevada are gathering as I finish typing this.
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