Will It End Up Clinton vs. Trump?

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Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, left, and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, right, speak to their respective supporters on February 21. Clinton: David Becker/Reuters; Trump: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

This article first appeared on the London School of Economics site.

Donald Trump won big on Saturday night in South Carolina and he is now the undisputed favourite on the Republican side. Trump now has history on his side: every Republican candidate who has won in New Hampshire and South Carolina (two states whose voter profiles are very different) has gone on to become the party's nominee.

More importantly, the Republicans who remain (Cruz, Rubio, Kasich and Carson) will continue to divide the Republican vote until at least the March 1 Super Tuesday primaries, when voters in 12 states cast their votes.

What makes all of this so stunning is that Trump is winning over 30 percent of the Republican vote while saying things that would bring most Republican candidates down (e.g., claiming that George W. Bush was responsible for 9/11). Republican voters may not agree with Trump's methods, but his victory in this deeply conservative and religious Republican state suggests that they like his anti-establishment message.

Hillary Clinton did what she needed to do in Nevada—put her devastating loss in New Hampshire behind her. While her margin of victory over Bernie Sanders was only 5 percent, it will be enough to buy her time. This will help cement her lead in next Saturday's Democratic primary in South Carolina.

Still, Bernie Sanders comes out of Nevada with a better-than-expected showing, especially, among Hispanic voters. Indeed, when you look at the voter entrance polls there are two things that jump out: Sanders's strong showing among younger caucus-goers (winning over 80 percent of them) and the surprising level of Hispanic support, particularly among younger Hispanics.

His support among young Hispanics may be overstated, but not so his support among younger Democratic voters generally. Indeed, Clinton's inability to connect with younger voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and now Nevada is a serious weakness.

Anti-establishment sentiment continues to run strong, on both sides. On the Republican side, Donald Trump's success and, importantly, Jeb Bush's defeat, underscores just how frustrated their voters are with the party's leadership in Washington. Whether some Republican candidate other than Trump can capitalize on this remains a big question.

On the Democratic side, concerns about "insiderism" are likely to continue to dog the Clinton campaign. While she scores very high with Democratic voters on knowledge and experience, she does poorly on measures of trust and honesty; many think her "too cozy" with Wall Street.

This may not prevent her from winning the Democratic nomination, but it could come back to haunt Clinton in a general election that is likely to depend greatly on each side's ability to turn out its political base.

Peter Trubowitz is associate fellow, Americas Programme at Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs.