Nevada and South Carolina Predictions (Updated)

While I’ve been spectacularly wrong on the Democratic results in New Hampshire and the Republican results in Michigan, I’ll nonetheless keep issuing these predictions for my own amusement, if nothing else.

Today’s Republican primary in South Carolina will get most of the media attention but the voters in Nevada participate today in non-binding caucus that actually awards more delegates, so I’ll predict the outcomes of both.

Nevada Caucus – Democrats

    Clinton – 42
    Obama – 38
    Edwards – 15

It wouldn’t shock me if Obama pulled it out. The support of the Culinary Workers union is big in a caucus, which depends more on organization that a primary. Still, I’m going to go with the polls and add in a few points to Clinton and Obama for late-deciders and take a couple points away from Edwards on the “let’s not waste my vote” theory.

Nevada Caucus – Republicans

    Romney – 27
    McCain – 22
    Huckabee – 12
    Giuliani – 10
    Thompson -9
    Paul -5

The polls are all over the map here but average out to a five point Romney win. He’s putting his energy there by campaigning in person while McCain is going all out in South Carolina, so I think the preferences will translate to action. I’ve upped his numbers and McCain’s slightly to factor in late deciders and docked the those low in the polls slightly as above.

South Carolina Primary – Republicans

    McCain – 30
    Huckabee – 27
    Romney – 15
    Thompson – 15
    Paul – 4
    Giuliani -3

McCain’s holding on to a narrow lead in the polls and has been consistently gaining while Huckabee has been falling. The only outlier — and it’s a big one — is yesterday’s American Research Group poll showing a 7 point Huckabee win. My guess is that a handful of Thompson supporters ultimately vote McCain to keep Huckabee from winning.

This one’s likely to be a nail biter and it could very well derail the campaign of the second place finisher. Delegates are awarded on a winner-take-all basis. More importantly, though, it’ll set the stage for Florida (Jan. 29) and the Super Duper Tuesday free-for-all (Feb. 5).

If McCain wins, he’ll likely gain the momentum to win Florida and run on to the nomination; Huckabee will be all but finished. While losing to Huckabee in the Deep South wouldn’t kill McCain, it would be a huge boost for Giuliani going into Florida and renew speculation that McCain can’t appeal to the Southern conservative base.

UPDATE: Dave Schuler

I’d summarize my speculations on the Nevada and South Carolina races as “too close to call” but there are a couple of points I’d like to make in amplification or contradiction of what James has noted above. First, I think that immigration is a pretty big issue for South Carolina Republicans and the prevailing position there cuts against John McCain. I think that Huckabee may well win South Carolina, that Thompson may do a little better than James is predicting, and Romney and McCain a little worse.

In Nevada I think that Ron Paul, although the wind has been taken from his sails a bit by his showing in the primaries so far, may break into double digits again. Traditionally the West has had quite a few libertarians. However, Nevada Republicans have tended to be regular Republicans and I’ve always felt that Romney was the regular Republican candidate which means that Nevada will break rather narrowly for Romney.

South Carolina’s Democratic primary will be held next Saturday. I expect a very narrow Obama victory.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Daniel says:

    Dear James Joyner,
    I think you’ve made a good assessment of how things will turn out today but you must be a Democrat if you think Giuliani is still in this thing. Are you blind or star struck? While the Democrats may be star struck by Rudy’s fame, the GOP will not rally behind a RINO.

  2. James Joyner says:

    you must be a Democrat if you think Giuliani is still in this thing. Are you blind or star struck?

    I think a McCain win in South Carolina propels him to a win in Florida and takes Giuliani out. Otherwise, he remains a factor.

    Giuliani’s in a tight race with McCain for 1st in Florida, the next primary after today, and is leading or vying for the lead in several of the Super Duper Tuesday states, including New Jersey, on February 5th. There are plenty of blue states where a “RINO” is viable.

  3. Dave Schuler says:

    Since in the present radicalized Republican Party John McCain is considered a RINO by some, it’s hard to know who doesn’t fit the description.

    Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee are both Big Government types, Huckabee somewhat in GWB’s mold. I guess that leaves Fred Thompson as the only “real Republican” in the race. Apparently, everyone’s forgotten how close his and McCain’s votes in the Senate lined up.

  4. Maggie says:

    It’s 1:06 p.m. EST and Fox News has just projected Romney the winner of Nevada. Part of the coverage was a discussion of what impact this early “call” would have on the SC results.

    People do like to be on the WINNING TEAM. It may edge Romney up into second or a very very close second.

  5. Voter says:

    OK for what it is worth, I think its getting tighter for Carolina but I think even though it looks like McCain it could be Huckabee, not sure. In either case I think we will see some more surprises and I don’t think either will take Florida. Gulliani? Not sure. I think this one is out of every one’s prediction’s and control including the MEDIA. We are all in for a ride. Buckle up and hold on! Better not to call the shots!