The Republican primary is a five-man race after Jeb Bush dropped out this weekend. Or it’s a four-man, a three-man, a two-man, or even a one-man race, depending on which campaign is talking. The jostling comes after a three-tiered finish in South Carolina that saw Donald Trump win his second state in a row with about a third of the vote, followed by Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz each about 10 percentage points behind, with Ben Carson and John Kasich at the high single digits. Kasich sought to declare victory for pushing Bush, who finished similarly, out of the race, while Rubio and Cruz argued they are the best candidate to take on Trump and the GOP field should coalesce behind them. Trump’s back-to-back victories, combined with concerns he’ll finish similarly in Tuesday’s Nevada caucuses, is heightening establishment GOP concerns that time is running out to keep him from the nomination. At this point, a three- or four- man race appears far more likely for a while as all but Carson cling to narrow theories of how they can win. But unless it’s down to two people, Trump’s in an exceptionally strong position in a year in which experience has become a vulnerability and bombast a desired character trait.
The Rubio and Cruz fight, which grew bitter in South Carolina, has shown no sign of ebbing as the campaigns continue to trade barbs. On Monday, Cruz’s spokesman was forced to apologize for spreading a false story about Rubio that was publicly debunked, while a day before, a Rubio surrogate dropped by a Cruz rally in Pahrump, Nevada, to criticize the candidate. In Nevada, the pair have adopted differing strategies for victory on Tuesday, with Cruz betting on winning over libertarian voters who used to back Rand Paul and Rubio doubling-down on a message of diversity aimed at the general election. Meanwhile, after South Carolina the GOP faces a choice between three divergent paths for future of the party.
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton‘s victory in Nevada on Saturday left her staff exhaling a collective sigh of relief as minority voters propelled her to victory over Bernie Sanders in the Democratic caucuses. Now the race shifts to South Carolina, where Clinton leads thanks to a commanding share of the black vote, and more diverse states the following week on Super Tuesday that should provide her with another boost. While Sanders has the resources and conviction to take the fight deep into the nominating calendar, Clinton has erased most doubts that she’s the far-and-away front-runner and is likely to win the nomination.
Why Bush was doomed to fail. Trump faces more questions about the Iraq war, but voters don’t seem to care. And preparing for mayhem at the Nevada caucuses.
Here are your must-reads:
Why Jeb Couldn’t Win
He just wasn’t made for these times [TIME]
GOP Faces Divergent Paths After South Carolina
There are three ways forward for the Republican Party [TIME]
Hillary Clinton Celebrates Victory in Nevada With a Call for Unity
At times, Clinton sounded almost like Bernie Sanders, TIME’s Sam Frizell writes
Super PAC Begins Populist Push to Support Bernie Sanders
Trying to help him with delegate deficit [TIME]
How Marco Rubio Has Avoided Trump’s Fire
The Donald is biding his time, TIME’s Philip Elliott reports
GOP Braces for Nevada Caucus Mayhem on Tuesday
Underfunded state party aiming to avoid vote-counting delays like those that occurred four years ago [Wall Street Journal]
“We are the party of everyone.”— Florida Sen. Marco Rubio making the case for diversity within the GOP in Nevada as he argues that growing the party is the only way to ensure its future success
“I really don’t even know what I mean, because that was a long time ago, and who knows what was in my head.” — Donald Trump when challenged on previous statements indicating support for the Iraq War
Bits and Bites
Delegate Count Leaving Bernie Sanders With Steep Climb [New York Times]
Mourners Gather for Justice Scalia’s Funeral Mass [Associated Press]
Rubio Super PAC Compares Him to Harry Potter [Politico]