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Analysis: Nevada Win Offers Clinton a Sigh of Relief

A loss would have produced more Democratic handwringing and negative headlines.
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After her incredibly narrow win in Iowa -- but before the results were officially in -- Hillary Clinton told her supporters that night she was breathing "a big sigh of relief."

But Saturday’s win in Nevada amounts to an even bigger sigh of relief for her candidacy, her campaign, and the elected Democrats supporting her, given:

  • Bernie Sanders' momentum after his 22-point New Hampshire primary win;
  • Sanders' recent fundraising advantage over Clinton;
  • And the negative headlines for the former secretary of state (possible campaign shakeup!)

And now the Democratic race moves to more favorable terrain for Clinton -- South Carolina (Feb. 27) and the southern-heavy March 1 states -- which possibly sets her up for a significant winning streak.

Think about what would have happened had Clinton lost in Nevada, where she won the popular vote in 2008, and where the electorate is more diverse: It would have produced more Democratic handwringing and negative headlines.

So Saturday's win is significant for her, because it stops the bleeding -- just as the map becomes more favorable for her.

Despite Sanders' loss, the outcome also is impressive for his campaign, given the Clinton campaign's head start, both organizationally and in the early polling.

Holding Clinton to a narrow, single-digit victory proves that Sanders and his campaign are in this race for the long haul, even outside the white-dominated states of Iowa and New Hampshire.

But in a race of delegates and superdelegates -- where Clinton holds an overwhelming advantage -- close won't win him the nomination.