A few interesting things happened today in both party nomination races. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton did quite well in Nevada. Although it wasn't a huge win over Obama, the exit polls show some real strengths for her. Obama beat Clinton among African Americans (83-14), but Clinton beat Obama among Latinos (64-26) and among Jews (67-25). That makes Obama look more like "the black candidate," whereas Clinton showed she could win a broader Democratic constituency. And again, she won big among registered Democrats, whereas Obama was the candidate of independents. Clinton is looking more and more like the kind of candidate Democrats usually nominate. I'm feeling a lot more confident in my Clinton prediction after today.
The GOP results out of Nevada and South Carolina left more of a jumbled message. Romney's win in Nevada didn't really surprise anyone, since most other candidates had more or less given up on that state, but there were a few events of note there. A huge chunk of Romney's support came from Mormons. They comprise around 6% of the state's population but made up 26% of the GOP voters today. (h/t to David Karol for noting this.) That's an enormous turnout effect. (95% of Mormons voted for Romney, by the way.)
John McCain's got to feel good about his win in South Carolina, especially since that state essentially destroyed him in 2000, but I still think the exit polls show the overall weakness of his position. Huckabee actually won among registered Republicans and self-described conservatives; McCain, as usual, is the darling of independents and moderates.
I think the smart money is still on Romney for the GOP nod. No one loves him, but a wide swath of Republicans can at least tolerate him, and very few people hate him (except the media, and that's good for him). Huckabee and McCain are despised by a sizeable chunk of the party, and the chunk that loves McCain is barely even in the party. Huckabee doesn't have the money or organization to compete in a large number of states; he needs momentum for that, and he's not getting it tonight. McCain can compete nationally, but I don't think he can go toe-to-toe with Romney in a closed primary, and there are lots of those coming up.
PS: Poor John Edwards. ARG had him in a three-way tie in Nevada last week and he came up with just 4% of the vote today. Sadly, this says far more about ARG's polling than about Edwards' campaign.