Who wins today in SC and Nevada? Pundits predict
© Greg Nash

The Hill asked pundits from both parties to predict the winners in Saturday's South Carolina GOP primary and Nevada Democratic caucuses. Here's what they had to say.



Bradley A. Blakeman

Winner: Donald TrumpDonald TrumpMcConnell’s gambit to save the Supreme Court paid off Tillerson to embassies: ID groups for tougher screening US probes Manafort’s banking: report MORE

Prediction: Donald Trump will win the South Carolina primary, but it is not likely to be a blowout. It will be closer than polls suggest, thanks to rural areas. The results will show that Trump remains a candidate of only minority support within the rank and file of GOP voters. In South Carolina, he will remain under 50 percent and as long as the field remains as large as it is, he can claim victory. In the closing days, we have seen the polls tightening in South Carolina, which suggests that should others drop out after South Carolina, Trump's winning ways are in danger as we head to Super Tuesday. Interesting to watch are those who come in second and third in South Carolina, because that will tell us who is likely to continue and who is likely — or needs to — bow out.

Blakeman is a professor of public policy, politics and international affairs at Georgetown University and was a senior adviser to former President George W. Bush.

Former Rep. John LeBoutillier (R-N.Y.)

Winner: Donald Trump

Trump will win the South Carolina GOP primary, but not by as wide a margin as almost all the polls have shown.

Sen. Ted CruzTed CruzTrump defends several unsubstantiated claims in interview Budowsky: Trump’s war against truth Five takeaways from Labor pick’s confirmation hearing MORE (Texas) will score a surprisingly close second-place finish, because he has by far the best on-the-ground campaign apparatus. He has twice, in both Iowa and New Hampshire, performed ahead of his polls.

It is even possible that Cruz ends up within single digits of The Donald and, if so, that would be a huge "victory" for him.

The real contest is for third place, between Sen. Marco RubioMarco RubioDem senator: House Intel chairman may have revealed classified info Five takeaways from Labor pick’s confirmation hearing GOP insists FBI probe won’t slow up Trump MORE (Fla.), former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, since the losers of the third-place race are suddenly on a Political Death Watch. Their clock to drop out of the race will be ticking.

And the GOP needs to winnow out this field — soon — in order to have the race the GOP needs.

LeBoutillier is a former Republican congressman from New York and is the co-host of "Political Insiders" on Fox News Channel.

Matt Mackowiak

Winner: Donald Trump

The last week of campaigning, which began with a dramatic and nasty final debate in Greenville, S.C. on CBS, now leads us to the South Carolina primary, which could settle the question of whether the GOP race has two or three finalists going into the critical March 1 contests.

I do expect Trump to win South Carolina. He's had a large and persistent lead there for much of the past three months.

I expect Trump to perform at, or slightly below, his RealClearPolitics poll average of 31.8 percent. He will be strong in the lowlands region and will benefit from the state's open primary system (and the fact that the Democratic primary isn't for another week), but he will not overperform due to a very weak ground game.

The biggest question of the South Carolina primary is who finishes second. There is broad disagreement on this question.

Cruz has the strongest ground game, will win the 60 percent of the state's GOP electorate that is evangelical and has benefited from having the conservative lane almost entirely to himself. Rubio has late momentum, much like he did in Iowa, and he has the triumvirate of South Carolina lawmakers Gov. Nikki Haley, Sen. Tim ScottTim ScottA better economic policy Republicans rebuke King for racial remarks Conway on criticism: 'I'm not there to read about myself' MORE and Rep. Trey GowdyTrey GowdyIntelligence chairman sparks storm with Trump briefing FBI Director Comey hearing a dud for Democrats THE MEMO: Five takeaways from Comey’s big day MORE all vouching for him.

I believe both Cruz and Rubio will overperform their RealClearPolitics poll averages (18.4 percent and 17.8 percent, respectively), with Cruz narrowly beating Rubio for second place. Cruz will win the upstate region; Rubio will need to perform well in the midlands. Rubio is counting on late momentum to swing late deciders his way. What's ironic is that both the Cruz and Rubio campaigns think they could win South Carolina if the race were held one week later.

Bush will finish fourth and Kasich fifth. Dr. Ben Carson will finish last, although he could finish narrowly ahead of Kasich.

I expect Bush to drop out Monday. I believe Carson will drop out no later than Wednesday.

Ultimately, I expect turnout of at least 650,000, perhaps as high as 700,000 (besting the record four years ago of 600,000).

Final prediction:

Trump, 30 percent
Cruz, 24
Rubio, 21
Bush, 12
Carson, 6
Kasich, 5
Other, 2

Mackowiak is a syndicated columnist; an Austin, Texas-based Republican consultant; and a former Capitol Hill and George W. Bush administration aide.

Ford O'Connell

Winner: Donald Trump

Unless something earth-shattering occurs between now and when the polls close in South Carolina, Trump will be the victor. Trump has led nearly every reliable public poll of Republican primary voters in the Palmetto State for the past 200-plus days and I just don't see that changing. As for who will finish second, the edge goes to Cruz over Rubio, given that South Carolina is 62 percent evangelical Christian on the Republican side and Cruz has invested more than any other candidate in the ground game. But should Rubio eclipse Cruz and capture the silver medal, that would be an ominous sign for the senator from Texas with the "SEC primary" looming on the horizon; also, the calls for Bush to exit the race will be deafening.

O'Connell is the chairman of CivicForumPAC, worked on John McCainJohn McCainFortune's 'Greatest Leaders' list includes Samantha Bee, snubs Trump McCain: Nunes's actions 'very disturbing' McCain calls North Korean leader a 'crazy, fat kid' MORE's 2008 presidential campaign and is author of the book "Hail Mary: The 10-Step Playbook for Republican Recovery."



Brent Budowsky

Winner: Bernie SandersBernie SandersDemocrats can either help solve healthcare challenges or stew in their partisanship Healthcare fight pits Trump against Club for Growth Perez, Ellison start multistate ‘turnaround tour’ for Dems MORE

My best guess is that Sanders will win the Nevada caucus in a close race. Democratic rival Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonIndependent investigation into Russian interference needed Obama and Trump haven’t talked since inauguration Perez, Ellison start multistate ‘turnaround tour’ for Dems MORE's negative attacks against Sanders in the closing days of the caucus will backfire and increase the number of voters who distrust her. While the caucus could go either way, I give Sanders a slight edge.

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics.

Nomiki Konst

Winner: Bernie Sanders

The Nevada caucus will be determined by which candidate has momentum. Nevada — a state that has only been caucusing for 12 years — is one of the most difficult states for which to predict an outcome. This is partly because caucuses rarely match polling and also because polling in Nevada is notoriously flawed. Add in major demographic shifts in the state, an anti-establishment mentality and a newer Democratic Party (than say, South Carolina or New York state), and you have a landscape that works to the advantage of the outsider Democrat, Sanders. With polling showing Sanders and Clinton neck and neck, Sanders will rely heavily on his strong on-the-ground organization, which will get many first-time caucusers to show up — much like he did in Iowa. Clinton is already tempering expectations and focusing on Super Tuesday states, understanding that the wind is at Sanders's back in Nevada. Like a game of roulette, both Clinton and Sanders have a 50-50 chance of winning the state right now. But pollsters and pundits rarely factor in momentum, which is Sanders's secret weapon. (Or, his lucky rabbit's foot.) Expect Sanders to win Nevada, ultimately shifting the dynamics of this election.

Konst is a political analyst and communications strategist regularly appearing on national media outlets discussing politics. She is founder and executive director of The Accountability Project, an investigative news start-up centered on political corruption. She is also the host of The Accountability Podcast, the only podcast that solely focuses on political corruption.

Former Rep. Bill Owens (D-N.Y.)

Winner: Hillary Clinton

The results in Iowa and New Hampshire demonstrated the unpredictability of this year's presidential primaries. Sanders's surprising surge is not unlike that of Trump and is likely fueled by the same emotions as voters in New Hampshire, who were torn between these ideologically opposite candidates. Where are the voters in Nevada — are they torn as well? My prediction is Clinton with a mid single-digit win.

Owens represented New York's North Country from 2009 until retiring from the House in 2015. He is a partner in the Plattsburgh, N.Y., firm of Stafford, Owens, Piller, Murnane, Kelleher & Trombley, PLLC.