The basic truth of politics is that incumbents have huge advantages and those favored by incumbents also have an advantage. Thus, the fundamentals favor a candidate like Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders.It’s not an iron clad law, but it is a big factor that shapes most political races.
The presidential primary, in both parties, the process can be about four months long and it is very complex. Historically, the winners rarely knock out all opponents in the early states of Iowa and New Hampshire. Usually, early states weed out weak candidates and leave only two or three serious competitors who “settle” the election on Super Tuesday. You have to go back about 40 years, to the 1960 election, to find a primary where candidates where struggling into the summer. Since the birth of the modern primary system in the 1970s, those who lead after Super Tuesday tend to win it all since it is hard to overcome the delegate lead at that point.
So that is where Nevada fits in. Previously an unimportant state, Nevada is now important. Sanders needs to keep a positive narrative going into Super Tuesday so that he can continue to fund raise and swamp the Clinton campaign in the media and on the ground in the Super Tuesday states. A tie or loss in Nevada would dampen things and make it harder to sway Black voters in South Carolina, who might only defect in sufficiently large numbers after a Sanders win. Also, a Nevada win could soften the blow of a close loss in South Carolina since Sanders could claim that he’s 2-2 againt HRC. In other words, Sanders needs a chain of wins to overcome the advantages that Clinton has in terms of name recognition and access to easy money. If Nevada #Berns this weekend, then I will see it as the first actively visible sign that the Democratic party is tipping away from the DLC/Clinton centrist faction of the 1990s. Until then, “advantage incumbent.”