Yes, Hillary Clinton was way ahead in the Nevada caucuses for much of the last year. And yes, her numbers among Latino voters in the state will furrow some brows at Clinton headquarters in the next few days. And yes, the broader race against Bernie Sanders is far from over.
Clinton has now won two of the first three 2016 votes. Both of those wins came in caucuses, a format that, on its face, should have played into the passion gap between Sanders supporters and Clinton backers. She is now an almost-certain winner in South Carolina's primary one week from today and will enter the big votes March 1 and March 15 with the upper hand on Sanders. Sweep — or come close to sweeping — the states that vote in March, and Clinton will have a close-to-insurmountable delegate edge.
It's easy to nit-pick Clinton's campaign — and I know many of her allies believe I do that on a daily basis. But it's important to remember that, at the end of the day, there is only winning and losing in these presidential races. If you think back to any presidential primary election, there's (almost) always a moment — or moments — in which the outcome looks in doubt, in which the front-runner falters.
We tend to forget those moments — George W. Bush losing New Hampshire by 19 points to John McCain in 2000, Barack Obama losing to Clinton in New Hampshire — in the broader sweep of history. Winners always looked like winners, and we always knew they were going to win, we tell ourselves.
The reality is always a bit less glamorous — and makes us looks a little less smart. Grinding victories out state by state. Organizations that find a way to drive every last supporter to the polls. Candidates who get knocked down and find a way to get back up. Maybe two or three times.
I've come to realize that Clinton's best traits as a candidate are her resilience and her perseverance. She will not give up. She will not stop working because she is tired. She will not back away. Ever.
Those traits were on display in Iowa and again today in Nevada. Sanders was the momentum candidate in each of those races. Clinton had the weight of expectations anchoring her. And yet in both instances, she found a way. Not by a lot. And maybe not exactly in the manner and style that some of her allies — or the broader Democratic party — will love.
But she won when she needed to win.
It doesn't mean she will be the nominee. It doesn't mean the race is over. What it does mean is that Clinton found a way when she needed to find a way. For that, she and her team deserve a huge amount of credit.