Friday, February 26, 2016

The Campaign Trail 2016: The Return to South Carolina

A week after the Republican party had their battle royal in South Carolina, the Democrats will be clashing in The Palmetto State. This will be former Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders' last chance to impress voters by showing they are the front running choice of the Democratic party before the all important Super Tuesday. Their next debate isn't until after Super Tuesday, so outside of an extremely short chance to campaign, South Carolina is important for swaying Democrats who are still on the fence.

Clinton and Sanders have been butting heads throughout the primary so far with each of them earning 50 delegates through the actual voters. When superdelegates are added in, Clinton is way ahead of Sanders at this point – Clinton having collected 455 superdelegates to Sanders' 21 – but that doesn't make the nomination a lock for her. Anything can happen between now and July 25th.

From how the voters have spoken there is no clear favorite between the two yet. In their first challenge, the Iowa Caucuses, Clinton very narrowly beat Sanders by gaining 0.3% more votes than Sanders. In the follow-up round, the New Hampshire primaries, Sanders had a decisive victory over Clinton. The third, and most recent, battle, the Nevada Caucuses, went to Clinton in a not quite as narrow as Iowa victory.

All that can be discerned from the Democratic primary cycle so far is that voters seem to be split down the middle on who they think is a better candidate, Sanders or Clinton. No clear favorite, or even hints of one, can be seen yet. After the South Carolina primary, the next step for the Democrats is Super Tuesday, where eleven states, and one territory, will cast their votes in the Democratic primary.

According to current polling Clinton is poised to take South Carolina in a decisive victory and Sanders is playing down the importance of the state. What does South Carolina actually mean to the two candidates?

For Clinton, she needs a decisive victory in South Carolina. Not just because the polls state she should get one. Sanders has one, she doesn't. She needs one. Plain and simple. Clinton needs a landslide victory especially just before Super Tuesday to show she can get one. If she can't pull off the landslide victory she needs to win; losing to Sanders, even by a close margin, could be disastrous to her campaign.

For Sanders, he can't just write off South Carolina. While unlikely, another decisive victory would be a major win for him. With two decisive victories he might be able to steamroll through Super Tuesday. Even a close victory would be a major win for him; but if he can't get a win, he needs to come in with a close margin to Clinton like he did in Nevada and Iowa. If he falls too far behind, his momentum could crumble, the last thing Sanders wants just before Super Tuesday.

No matter what the results will end up being, South Carolina is ultimately an important state for both campaigns in what is shaping up to be a brutal bare knuckles fight all the way to Washington D.C.

For the next coverage of the Republican primaries return on February 29th for the pre-Super Tuesday coverage for both parties. For the next coverage of the Democratic primaries return after the South Carolina primaries are over.

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