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Where the candidates stand ahead of the next primaries

By Ann Marie Awad   |   Feb. 16, 2016 at 4:53 PM
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 16 (UPI) -- Democrats and Republicans are spending a lot of time in South Carolina and Nevada as time runs out for decision days in both of those states.

This Saturday, Democrats go to the polls in Nevada's Democratic caucus. In South Carolina, Republicans go to bat for their presidential picks. On Tuesday, Nevada Republicans hold their primary, and next Saturday South Carolina Democrats hold theirs.

After that, it's Super Tuesday, when parties in 15 states hold their primaries on the same day.

Before the marathon begins, here's a look at how each candidate fares in the polls.

Democrats

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt

Coming off of her loss in the New Hampshire primary, Clinton's campaign seems worried that a similar defeat will play out in Nevada.

"There's an important Hispanic element to the Democratic caucus in Nevada," Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon told MSNBC last week. "But it's still a state that is 80 percent white voters." Sanders' victory in New Hamsphire was a signal of his overwhelming support among white voters.

When it comes to Nevada, polls are scarce. The last one, conducted in October by CNN, found Clinton leading by 16 points. But that was back when there were other candidates in the race -- and the possibility of Vice President Joe Biden joining the fray. It was also long before Sanders near-tied with Clinton in Iowa, and beat her in a landslide in New Hampshire. Much has changed.

The picture is clearer in South Carolina. According to RealClear Politics, Clinton polls at 59 percent on average in the Palmetto State, while Sanders lags behind at 35 percent. Despite the gap, the data shows Sanders' numbers creeping up to meet Clinton's over time, just as they did in New Hampshire.

Sanders' numbers keep ticking up nationally as well. On average, Clinton polls at 49 percent while Sanders is at 35 percent. Compare that to 20 percent, where Sanders polled in September.

Republicans

Donald Trump

Trump continues to command a healthy lead over his Republican rivals. In South Carolina, just days away from the Republican primary, the real estate mogul polls at 36 percent on average, according to RealClear Politics.

Polling is likewise scarce on the Republican side for Nevada. The latest survey by Gravis, released in December, showed Trump leading with 33 percent.

Nationally, Trump polls at 29 percent on average, still leading Republicans but by fewer points.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas

Cruz has a ways to go, lagging nearly 20 points behind Trump in South Carolina with 17 points on average. Cruz is tapping into his Evangelical support once more to lock up the red state, just as he did in the Iowa caucuses earlier this month. Saturday will determine how well those Evangelical voters continue to respond to Cruz, or if they've moved on to another candidate.

In Nevada, Gravis found Cruz polling at 20 percent, still 13 points behind Trump.

Nationally, Cruz does a bit better. On average, he polls at 21 percent, just 8 points behind Trump.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.

After a dismal showing in the New Hampshire primaries, Rubio has been trying to flip the script for the last week or so. In South Carolina, he's at 15 percent on average, which is actually an improvement over a month ago, when he barely grazed double digits.

According to Gravis, the news is worse in Nevada, where Rubio polls at just 11 percent. It also remains to be seen whether Rubio will try to appeal to Latino voters in the state. While they comprise nearly 20 percent of the state's electorate, more than half are Democrats.

Nationally, Rubio is at 20 percent on average thanks to two big boosts -- one following the Iowa caucuses, where he placed third, that brought him up from 10 percent to 17 percent on average. Another small boost following the last GOP presidential debate brought him up to where he stands now.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush

After finishing fourth in the New Hampshire primary, Bush is fashioning South Carolina's primary as the next chapter of his comeback. Right now, he polls at 9 percent on average in the Palmetto State, a number working on pushing upwards with the help of his brother, former President George W. Bush. Bush won the state in 2000 and is well-liked there.

Gravis shows Bush's numbers halved in Nevada, polling only at 5 percent. Bush made some stops in Nevada in late January ahead of the Iowa caucuses, but he's largely stayed away since. Next week, he has some last minute events scheduled leading up to the caucuses.

Nationally, Bush is down to 4 percent on average. Those numbers have stayed firmly in the single digits with little movement.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich

Kasich's second place finish in New Hampshire has boosted him in South Carolina, where he now averages at 9 percent, up from 2 percent.

Gravis' polling has Kasich down to 0 percent in Nevada, but this poll was conducted in December and is the most recent one available. It doesn't take his New Hampshire performance into account.

Nationally, Kasich polls near Bush at 4 percent on average, up 2 points since New Hampshire.

Dr. Ben Carson

Carson, coming off of a pair of defeats in Iowa and New Hampshire, along with staffing cuts and money problems, goes into South Carolina with 5 percentage points on average.

While Gravis showed Carson at 6 percent in Nevada in December, his numbers have continued to decline everywhere else.

Consistent with his across-the-board polling decline, Carson registers at 7 percent on average nationally, light years away from his November tie with Trump at 24 percent.

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