Results In from Nevada, But Too Early to Count Chickens

| Sat Jan. 19, 2008 5:45 PM EST

The results are in: Romney and Clinton are the declared winners in the Nevada caucus.

Is it significant? More so for Clinton than Romney. If Romney had lost, in a state with a heavy Mormon vote, and in an election which most of the other GOP candidates ignored, it would have been cataclysmic for his campaign. As it is, he's grabbed a few more delegates and put a modest amount more distance between himself and the other candidates in the race for the nomination. Not enough distance to really impact the race going into February 5th, but enough to at least provide padding should he flop in South Carolina when the votes are tallied later tonight and should Giuliani reenter the scene with a strong win in Florida.

For Clinton, she's now recovered from the Iowa blues. So can she coast in the wake of this victory? Absolutely not. With Obama nipping at her heels in rural, white, Nevadan counties such as Elko, he's shown he can compete effectively in the interior West, one of the country's up-for-grabs electoral regions.

Moreover, Edwards' support collapsed going into the caucuses. As someone who believes Edwards presence has enriched the campaign, I'm saddened by this. But, realistically, Nevada probably marks the beginning of the end of his candidacy.

Look at the numbers and you'll see Obama apparently picked up more of these loose Edwards voters than did Clinton. He also won over more of the independents who attended Democratic caucuses. If Edwards' support hemorrhages in other states too, my bet is the newly minted two-horse race will remain tight into Super Tuesday and, quite likely, beyond. Nevada's result may well mean Edwards can't be president. But he could yet become a king-maker.

-- Sasha Abramsky.

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