Today, Republicans in South Carolina and Democrats in Nevada will go to the polls and caucuses, respectively, to cast their votes. On Tuesday (February 23), Nevada’s Republicans will caucus, while South Carolina’s Democrats must wait until next Saturday (February 27). In this post, students predict the outcomes in the SC primary (for both Democrats and Republicans) and the outcome of the Nevada Republican caucuses. While the Democrats caucus in Nevada today, it is a non-binding preference vote. The binding vote will occur in May at the state convention. As such, the predictions below do not include percentages for Clinton or Sanders in Nevada.

Readers will also note that the following predictions also exclude delegate counts for both contests. While Democrats in South Carolina follow the same delegate allocation rules as they do in other states, the Republicans use a type of winner-take-all system, in which the winner in each of the state’s 7 congressional districts receives 3 delegates from each district he wins, while the statewide winner receives 29 statewide delegates, for a total of 50 delegates. In Nevada, Republicans follow a strictly proportional allocation of delegates, with 30 total delegates up for grabs. Because of the oddities of South Carolina’s Republican delegate allocation and the lack of a binding preference vote for Nevada Democrats, students focused only on statewide vote percentage predictions for South Carolina (both parties) and Nevada (Republicans only).


Keshawn Langhorn and Nicholas Pozzi


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Trump should win in both states because of his ability to represent the main issues of voters: immigration/Muslims, jobs, and terrorism in South Carolina, the economy and illegal immigration in Nevada. These victories will solidify Trump as the candidate to beat going into Super Tuesday. Rubio’s ability to appeal to South Carolina’s conservative voters with his stances on social issues, endorsements by Senator Tim Scott and Governor Nikki Haley, and appeal among Hispanics in Nevada will help him finish well in both contests and make him the leading establishment candidate. Cruz will appeal to Evangelicals in South Carolina, the way he did in Iowa, but will not have any victories, placing him in a must win situation come March 1 to stay viable as he competes for voters with Trump.  Both Bush and Kasich most likely will not place well in either contest and may drop out after Nevada.

Clinton will take home the win in South Carolina mainly due to her support in the black community, even though she has come under scrutiny as of late in that community. Racial problems seems to be a major talking point as the elections hit South Carolina and she still has the support of prominent African Americans and older people who are going to vote. Hillary has the “Obama Effect” in her favor with the black community, as she has used her affiliation with him to help draw in more liberals. Sanders has had the support of young people during his run for President but he shouldn’t expect to win this one. His support from some prominent African American figures has gone largely unnoticed. How Sanders reacts after a potential defeat will be important. He is looking at more states similar to South Carolina and without major wins on Super Tuesday we could see the end of “The Bern.”

Emily Radigan and Amanda Knipple


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We believe Trump will win in South Carolina because of his continued polling as well as SC’s extremism, which lines up well with Trump’s policy. Cruz’s polling will stand because of SC’s religiosity and active evangelicals. Rubio, with his events and good debate performance, will garner decent support and may assert himself as the establishment candidate. His recent endorsement by Governor Nikki Haley, as well as others, may also contribute. Bush, also fighting for the establishment vote, has an edge over Kasich because of his solid debate performance and his brother’s campaigning. However, both are competing with Rubio for a similar electorate. Kasich also has the least amount of cash on hand of the remaining candidates; a bad loss would hurt his presidential hopes. Carson needs to do well to continue on, but is not expected to do well. Nevada, not having many polls at all, is inconclusive, and will depend on the outcomes of SC, subsequent momentum, as well as the winnowing of the field.

We predict that Clinton will hang on to her lead in South Carolina. However, Sanders, with his recent string of endorsements and advertisements appealing to the black electorate (56% of Democratic primary voters in 2008), may be able to narrow the gap, as he has in most recent polls, especially with undecided voters, riding on the momentum of New Hampshire. Still, Clinton is seen as being widely popular and continues to lead among black voters. She also has endorsements from many well-respected figures and groups that are particularly prominent in the black community, as well as other endorsements. We expect the Nevada Democratic caucuses to be a close competition, as many new polls indicate.

Eric Brower and Marlena Mareno


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Trump will emerge as a winner in both states due to his win in New Hampshire and his lead in recent polls. Trump gains support from an idea that he is the “unstoppable candidate,” and the “widespread perception” that he can improve our economy, correct immigration problems, and reform Washington’s ways as the “outsider.” Cruz will place second in South Carolina, capitalizing on evangelical voters; however, Trump will undoubtedly steal from this pool. Governor Nikki Haley’s endorsement will boost Rubio, putting him in a close third in South Carolina. Rubio will then ride this “marcomentum” into Nevada for a second place showing. Any momentum Bush might have had from the latest debate will surely be lost as the missed endorsement from Haley reflects his insufficient support in both states. Bush, Kasich, and Carson are next on the list of candidates to be winnowed out and will most likely leave the race following South Carolina or soon after.

Hillary Clinton will win over Bernie Sanders after her embarrassing loss in New Hampshire. Sanders has been riding a post-New Hampshire wave and even netting a few new endorsements and a financial kick. However, these won’t help him much in South Carolina. Polls show clear dominance of Clinton over Sanders. The South features fewer radical Democrats, demonstrated by the Blue Dogs and their supporters. Clinton’s positions have appealed with moderate Democrats and she embraces this. Sanders, on the other hand, appeals to the more radical factions in the party. Also aiding Clinton in victory will be her appeal to non-white voters. Clinton leads Sanders by about 54% among black voters in South Carolina. Additionally, South Carolina does not have an exceptionally large population of young voters to draw from with only 26% of South Carolinians being between 20 and 40 years old—a demographic that has been instrumental in Sanders’s rise. Although Nevada’s delegate counts are non-binding, it will be a close tie for first; however, we expect Clinton to emerge as the winner in that state.

Aubrey Kirsch and Jack Massaroni


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After a strong performance in NH Trump appears to be charging towards a win in both SC, and NV. He appeals to evangelicals and, after proving that his supporters can turn out to vote, everyone else will be scrambling to consolidate support and establish themselves as the second place candidate. After a win in SC, Trump will be the prohibitive favorite. So to lose, “Either he needs to stumble badly, or a bunch of his opponents need to drop out.” After securing second in NH, Kasich will be looking to continue his performance in NV and SC. While his staff expects a surprising result in SC, we see him falling back. The question is whether Cruz or Rubio will secure the lion’s share of the Latino vote in NV. Cruz has the support of evangelicals but Trump is taking voters. Rubio is reeling from a disastrous debate performance and a poor primary result in NH. With the endorsements he is receiving, notably from SC Governor Nikki Haley, he might bounce back. Bush will again have a middling performance, but is expected to suffer a heavy loss in NV. South Carolina is a favorable state for Carson, but unless he wins huge, he will be in trouble.

We expect the African-American vote to decide SC. Though Sanders has some much needed support from Black Lives Matter icons, Clinton is seeking to monopolize the African-American Democratic vote, playing on Sanders’s attacks on Obama to mobilize support. The loss will not be detrimental for Sanders, as gaining support from the Black Lives Matter movement may provide needed momentum to stay in the race. Clinton already has support from many black elected officials, as she was endorsed by the Congressional Black Caucus PAC. With these endorsements, voters will join Clinton, believing she is the best candidate to represent African Americans, especially African-American women. NV is distinctly different from Iowa and New Hampshire, which both had an urban population of about 60% in 2010. NV, on the other hand, had a 94% urban population. Sanders may be at a disadvantage in NV despite climbing poll numbers.

Brianna Russo and Kaitlyn Krolik


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We predict that Kasich will emerge as the moderate frontrunner. While some critique Kasich’s campaign strategy, he has been polling well in South Carolina. Forecasts place Trump’s chances as high as 70% to win SC. However, we believe that the polls, in general, are generous when predicting Trump’s support. Kasich, however, may have some trouble with his lack of funds and time to persuade a new state after his second place finish in New Hampshire. Trump has stayed within the 30% range in most polls and with the cases of the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary results as precedents, his percentage of the vote will remain the same in Nevada. Trump will come out on top because of the lack of overwhelming support for any other candidate in the field. Cruz is polling relatively well in Nevada and will secure the second spot. Even though Rubio made a comeback in the most recent debate after his loss in the New Hampshire primary, he is only expected to finish third behind Trump and Cruz.

We believe that Sanders will be riding some momentum gathered with his win in New Hampshire and by exceeding expectations in Iowa; however, Clinton has been polling significantly better in South Carolina. Going into South Carolina, both Sanders and Clinton are vying for the support of black voters. Clinton’s recent endorsement by the Congressional Black Caucus PAC will only strengthen her support of the black voters in South Carolina, of which she already has a strong hold. Critics have noted that Bernie is struggling with the black vote in South Carolina, which is an integral part of an SC win.

JaiCe Stinton and Samantha Coons


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Trump is the only candidate who has been able to maintain a certain electorate and consistently poll well, therefore we think he will take first, yet again, in SC. Trump’s discussion of increasing benefits for veterans and building up the military plays well in a state with a strong military presence like SC. Other candidates like Rubio, Bush, and Kasich are all splitting the establishment vote, which only hurts them. While Cruz is counting on the evangelical vote to place him in second, Rubio has been making a plea to conservatives that he is the religious candidate who can win in the general election. Trump continues to dominate the Nevada polls. However, Rubio’s campaign has been creating a victory movement, attempting to score a win soon. While Rubio and Cruz are trying to split the Mormon and Latino groups, Trump is receiving more support for having the “most conservative values.” Recently, we see Rubio excelling, with the decent South Carolina debate and the newest endorsements; as a result, he’s a potential “comeback kid.” Cruz is slowly falling in polls, but he is the only one who has set up campaign chairmen in all counties, ensuring a strong ground game in NV. Bush has been spending time and money, yet – so far – none of it has paid off. Bush needs Nevada to even be considered in the running for the nomination, but it is not promising. Carson and Kasich also seem to lack support going into Nevada. Kasich may be a “dark horse,” as he did make a surprising stance in New Hampshire; however, it does not look like he is going to compete with Trump, Cruz, and Rubio.

Clinton’s lead over Sanders can be contributed to minority voters in SC, where she leads 65% to 28% among African Americans and 60% to 33% among women. Throughout the campaign cycle she has been better able to connect with minority voters, whereas Sanders appeals more to white voters. A key factor is that polls show voters believe Clinton is better equipped to handle issues of foreign policy, health care, race relations, and the economy.

Kevin Callanan and McKenzie Franck


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After the results of the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, it is clear that Donald Trump is the favorite in the upcoming contests in South Carolina and Nevada. Fighting it out for second in the two states are Senators Cruz and Rubio. While Rubio slipped up in New Hampshire after his poor debate performance, he is coming back in the polls, due in part to his recent endorsements by Governor Nikki Haley and others and good showing in the last debate. Jeb Bush will come in a close fourth in South Carolina due to his family legacy, endorsement by Senator Lindsey Graham, and his impressive performance in the last debate. However, Bush will fall short in Nevada according to recent polls, due to the other top three candidates getting most of the delegates. Kasich is expected to do decently within the next two primaries from his good performance in New Hampshire. Ben Carson is probably not going to do as well in both states, particularly after his falling out in New Hampshire and his low polling numbers in South Carolina and Nevada.

Secretary Clinton will have a strong performance in South Carolina, considering she has led in the polls consistently since she announced her campaign. The Clintons also have strong ties to the African American community, who make up the majority of South Carolina voters. Clinton currently has the support of 65% of black voters in South Carolina. Sanders, however, has been able to close the gap slightly by meeting with black leaders like Al Sharpton and receiving the support of other prominent black leaders.

Stella Pabis and Cody Ingraham


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Trump has a double-digit lead over the next candidate, clearly looking to take first place in SC. Rubio’s recent flood of endorsements, including Gov. Nikki Haley, will likely place him second. Cruz’s southern evangelical vote will put him close to Rubio, while Bush and Kasich will fight for the moderate vote. Kasich’s success in New Hampshire may hold traction, while Bush is doing everything possible to stay afloat. Meanwhile, we will probably watch Carson’s campaign implode at dead last Saturday night. Meanwhile, the Nevada Republican caucuses currently appear to be a race for second or third place spot as Trump leads in all of the few polls that do exist. The tighter race is between Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. There are some factors that point to Cruz as the victor. First, both candidates are splitting the Mormon vote, which has proven vital to success in Nevada in the past. Secondly, Cruz was declared a formidable force after last Wednesday’s Town Hall on CNN. Finally, Cruz is bringing his message more strongly to the ground in Nevada, while Rubio is fixated on South Carolina. Jeb Bush is also making a last-ditch effort in Nevada. Bush has received the most endorsements from Nevada officials, including Senator Dean Heller, and his Super PAC has spent $700,000 in ads to date in the Silver State. Kasich has been focusing his time elsewhere, which will hurt him in the end.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton has a strong lead in South Carolina. This attests to her campaign learning from mistakes made in 2008 and Clinton’s popularity among black voters statewide. This will place her leagues above Sanders, who has largely struggled to attract minority support until recently. In Nevada, it appears that the race has heated up from the few polls conducted and from Senator Sanders’s stronger presence and spending on advertisements.



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In all of our predictions, Trump emerges as the winner in both South Carolina and Nevada. After his win in South Carolina, students predict that he will gain momentum heading into Tuesday’s Nevada caucuses and build a significant lead there. In contrast, a poor performance in South Carolina may doom the chances of Bush, Kasich, and Carson. On the Democratic side, we predict a strong win for Clinton in South Carolina.

Stay tuned for our Super Tuesday predictions and additional posts about candidate exits, the level of competition in 2016, and others!

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