For the first time in months, it wasn’t just a big night for political outsiders.
After a virtual tie in Iowa and a blowout in New Hampshire, Hilary Clinton needed to show that she could turn out voters, that her message was resonating and that there was an end – or at least a pause – in Bernie Sanders’s momentum.
In Saturday’s Nevada caucus she certainly showed that.
With polls showing a tightening race in the past few days after she led by over 25 points just six weeks ago, it was possible that Sanders could’ve pulled this out. But the Clinton “firewall” of African-American voters was out in full force as they voted for her three-to-one -- an excellent sign as she heads to South Carolina where over 50 percent of the electorate is black and she is heavily favored to win.
No one has doubted the strength of Sanders’s message focusing on the rigged economy, reining in Wall Street, offering universal health care and tuition free college with liberal voters. Saturday in Nevada the Vermont senator still won with those who identified themselves as liberal and voters under 45 who went for Sanders three- to-one. He also far surpassed expectations with Latinos, showing that his message can resonate with minority voters.
But Clinton won handedly with moderates, which adds to the argument that she’s more electable come November. And she won, critically, with women – a voting bloc that she has been rapidly losing over the last few months. This is especially significant after the comments by Madeleine Albright and Gloria Steinem just two weeks ago that exposed a large gulf in the way that younger women look at feminism – and Clinton herself – as compared to women of Clinton’s generation.
Furthermore, Clinton showed that she has figured out a winning formula for how to be associated with Obama successfully: she won over 75 percent of voters who want to continue his policies. This also certainly helps her to keep the black vote as we go through the primaries.
Sanders isn’t stopping anytime soon, but Saturday really couldn't have gone better for Clinton.
And the same could be said for Donald Trump who won the South Carolina primary decisively.
Hot off a feud with the pope and a few polls showing his lead under 10 points in South Carolina and even narrowing nationally, there was talk that Trump would win, but not by as much as had been projected.
But the South Carolina voters had something else in mind.
Trump won with retirees, military personnel and veterans and Evangelicals amongst other groups.
We must consider how astounding it is that Ted Cruz couldn’t win in a state like South Carolina with such a large born-again Christian voter base. And that of the entire field of GOP candidates – including Cruz and Carson, two devout Christians – that Jerry Falwell, Jr. endorsed Trump.
Or that Trump could go after President George W. Bush in a state where Bush has over 80 percent favorability and who campaigned for his brother on President’s Day and not be hurt whatsoever.
Saturday night also brought the news that Jeb Bush, once the frontrunner, has dropped out of the race. The question now is if the establishment will finally accept that Trump is on the path to become the Republican nominee. The rest of the primary states are much more favorable to Trump than New Hampshire and South Carolina, where he won handedly.
We could very well be seeing a Trump/Clinton general election match-up.
Now won’t that be fun?
Douglas E. Schoen has served as a pollster for President Bill Clinton. He has more than 30 years experience as a pollster and political consultant. He is also a Fox News contributor and co-host of "Fox News Insiders" Sundays on Fox News Channel at 7 pm ET. He is the author of 12 books. His latest is "The Nixon Effect: How Richard Nixon’s Presidency Fundamentally Changed American Politics" (Encounter Books, February 2016). Follow Doug on Twitter @DouglasESchoen.