Republicans are currently focused on South Carolina, but the Democrats have a different race in mind right now. Their caucus in Nevada takes place this Saturday, with South Carolina falling a week later. This was billed as Hillary’s first stop on the path to crushing Bernie Sanders once he left the initial strongholds of Iowa and New Hampshire where he invested all of his resources. But has the damage the former First Lady suffered in those two battles begun to take a toll out west? Sam Levine at HuffPo looked at the question over the weekend and seems to feel that the once assumed “safe ground” for Clinton is now pretty much a question mark.

According to HuffPost Pollster, which aggregates publicly available polling data, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are tied in the polls ahead of the state’s Feb. 20 caucuses. But it’s unclear how reliable that data is, given how little polling has been done in the state. A poll released this week showing Clinton and Sanders tied was the first survey of Democratic voters in the state since December.

“We haven’t been doing this that long, there’s no real sense of the caucus electorate the way there is in Iowa,” said longtime Nevada journalist Jon Ralston on “The Rachel Maddow Show”on Friday. Ralston also noted that turnout at the Nevada caucuses has been particularly low in the past and that Democrats have same-day registration in the state, making it difficult to predict who is going to vote.

I’ll agree with them that Nevada is tough to poll. Historically the margins of error there tend to be a bit higher and the fact that it’s another Democratic caucus rather than an actual election only adds to the confusion. (See Hillary in Iowa for the latest example.) But Clinton isn’t doing herself any favors out there for what it’s worth. Apparently Team Clinton has been playing the lowered expectation games and preparing her followers (and the media, but I repeat myself) for a worse day than they might have once expected. Unfortunately for her, she chose to blame the possible poor outcome on the fact that the state is so darned white, and that’s got Harry Reid seeing red. (Politico)

With five days to go until the Nevada caucuses — once viewed as Hillary Clinton’s Western firewall — Sen. Harry Reid and his allies are incensed at the wounded Democratic frontrunner.

The reason: The Clinton campaign’s attempt to downgrade expectations there by whitewashing the diverse state.

The campaign’s recent assertion that Nevada is “still a state that is 80 percent white voters” – in other words, a state that looks alot like Bernie Sanders’ base — is simply wrong, Reid allies claim. But more galling than that, they say, it undermines the entire rationale for the caucuses’ existence — the state was only pushed to the front of the election calendar eight years ago because Reid lobbied for better demographic representation than the overwhelmingly white early-voting states like Iowa and New Hampshire.

This seems to be a case of political convenience in all its glory. The Democrats want to blame all those white voters in Nevada for a possible Hillary stumble, assuming that she only beats Bernie among minorities. But when these same wise party leaders want to bash Donald Trump, for example, they point out that his “racist rhetoric” will particularly hurt Republicans in places like… Nevada. (Latin Times)

If a Latino anti-Trump political does exist within among GOP voters, it may come into play in later primary states. Take Nevada, where 28 percent of the population is Latino, or Colorado, where 21 percent is Latino. Both are battleground states worth as much or more GOP delegates than Iowa. With the Republican field whittled down, conservative Latinos may be able to rally around a single candidate. Trump, of course, believes that it will be him, especially in Nevada.

So which is it? Either the Hispanic vote is unimportant in Nevada or it’s a key driver. They can’t seem to make up their minds. But no matter how the chips fall in reality, there’s no question that Clinton has potentially shot herself in the foot yet again. The Hispanic population certainly won’t be thrilled to hear that they aren’t important enough to put her over the top and Harry Reid is still a powerfully influential and popular figure among the locals. I expect that some of the Sanders people will be putting these comments to good use in the next five days, assuming they know anything about running a campaign.

Exit question: Let’s just hypothesize for a moment that Bernie somehow pulls win number three out of his hat in Nevada. (Or win number two with a tie in Iowa if you prefer.) Then there’s another week before they face off in the Palmetto State. Hillary holds on to a 59-40 lead in South Carolina as of this weekend. That’s a solid set of numbers to be sure, but much close than it was a month ago. So does her firewall start to deteriorate if she comes into their primary without one solid win in her pocket? Could Sanders actually be approaching the level of viability even without Clinton being indicted?

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