Vital wins for Donald Trump in South Carolina and Hillary Clinton in Nevada have solidified the front-runner status of both candidates—but this election year is far from ordinary and the path to nomination will not be an easy one. Here's what analysts are looking out for in the days and weeks ahead:
- The Trump ceiling. After cruising to victory despite having taken on both George W. Bush and Pope Francis, Trump "is seemingly untouchable," according to USA Today—but as the race heats up, we'll soon find out whether the long-predicted ceiling to his support actually exists. Politico predicts that he may find it harder to portray himself as the outsider candidate now that Jeb Bush, his favorite establishment "chew toy," has dropped out.
- Clinton momentum. Her victory over Bernie Sanders in Nevada was a narrow one, but it was enough to restore the Democratic establishment's expectation of "a stately march to the nomination for the former first lady," according to the Globe and Mail. If she wins as expected in South Carolina next week and dominates Super Tuesday, it may be too much for Sanders to bounce back from.
- Sanders woos minorities. The senator from Vermont "has never in his four-decade political career had to court minority voters," the Washington Post notes, but he's going to have to learn fast to have a chance in upcoming contests—including those in Texas, Virginia, and Tennessee—despite promising inroads among Latino voters in Nevada. Sanders aides say they believe his message on economic inequality will appeal to younger voters regardless of race.
- Trouble ahead for Ted Cruz. Cruz, after being labeled a liar by both the Trump and Rubio campaigns, had a worse-than-expected result in South Carolina, which does not bode well for other states with large numbers of conservative Christian voters. The result exposed what "may be a big crack in Cruz's Southern firewall" and shattered his strategy of riding momentum into Super Tuesday, the National Review notes.
- Sink or swim time for Marco Rubio. Rubio has had some better-than-expected primary results but no wins, which "needs to change soon or else it will become a two-person race," USA Today notes. With Bush's exit narrowing the field of establishment candidates, Rubio's people are about to start "gently cajoling—or elbowing—John Kasich to the exits," Politico predicts.
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