Polls since last Summer have shown a consistent, gaudy lead for Donald Trump, the brash, millionaire real estate developer who has taken the Republican party by storm with his rhetoric on immigration(“build the wall…put a big, beautiful door in the middle…make Mexico pay for it…”), fellow candidates(Jeb Bush: “Low energy,” Carly Fiorina: “Robotic,” Ben Carson: “Nice–We don’t need any more nice people, folks!,” Ted Cruz: “Pathological liar”), journalists(“They treat me horribly!…TOTAL SCUM!…Pan out the cameras–You won’t pan out the cameras! You people are so dishonest.”), and even his own daughter(“I’ve always said that if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, I’d probably be dating her”). However, some of his more recent rhetoric may come back to bite him in a big way this evening. In last Saturday’s debate, Trump put the blame for 9/11 squarely on the shoulders of former President George W. Bush, who remains very popular with South Carolina GOP voters, and loudly proclaimed that Bush should be impeached for his actions(seeming not to care that W has been out of office for 7 years).
His outbursts have resulted in free-falling poll numbers ahead of today’s Primary. Jeb Bush, former Florida Governor and younger brother of Bush 43, tried milking this one to the maximum, drafting his brother to stump for him in SC the day after the debate. GW Bush didn’t disappoint, trotting out the old stand-bys(“I’m a tree farmer. Gives me a chance to practice my ‘stump speech’…I’m an oil painter now. And just so we’re clear, the signature is worth more than the painting itself…”) and really yukking it up with the audience. Overall, the speech had the intended effect of reminding voters of why they liked Bush 43. Counter-intuitively, it also reminded people of why they’re not impressed with Jeb! and his campaign thus far.
While Bush has stalled and Trump has fallen, freshman Senators and Conservative darlings Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio have experienced groundswells of support for their campaigns, with the latter trotting out the endorsements of Governor Nikki Haley, US Senator Tim Scott, and Benghazi Committee Chairman and Upstate SC US Representative Trey Gowdy. Cruz, for his part, is heralding the endorsement of Charleston-area US Representative and former Governor Mark Sanford, the world’s most famous hiker of the Appalachain Trail. Ultimately, the high concentration of evangelical voters would give Cruz a narrow edge going into tonight, though Rubio could upset with a strong showing with veterans, another, to borrow a Trumpism, YUGE constituency in SC’s GOP Primaries
Prediction: Cruz wins with 30%, versus Rubio’s 26%, Trump’s 24%, and John Kasich’s 13%. Bush and Dr. Ben Carson split the remaining 7%. Bush drops out, and pressure mounts on Carson to do the same.
Over in Nevada, things are a good bit less clear, as very few polls have been taken on the state of this race. Those few polls that have been taken have shown both candidates with varying leads. The only real way to gauge sentiment as to how the race is going is to observe what’s happening on the ground. In this regard, the news is not very good for Hillary Clinton, as the grassroots activists who usually decide the Caucus events are mobilizing in a really strong way for Senator Bernie Sanders. Compounding matters is the fact that Clinton has to keep, ah, reminding people of what an ‘honest’ person she is(in spite of a general lack of transparency, to name just one thing), which is about as realistic a statement as Donald Trump touting his ‘decency’ and ‘humility.’
While the party faithful are backing her up(after all, she’s the wife of a former President, though she generates about the same level of excitement as does a certain brother of a former President), things overall don’t look great for her. While she may yet pull off a narrow win(a-la Iowa, but with an obviously rigged game of five-card draw in place of flipping coins with the same face on either side), the sentiments on the ground aren’t showing it, as far as this writer can tell.
Prediction: Sanders wins with 55% to 44% for Clinton. Momentum mounts for Sanders, having won 2 out of 3 Primaries, as the Democratic race moves to SC and Super Tuesday.