By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) – With New Hampshire and Iowa (sort of) tucked away, the Democratic presidential race heads to Nevada for caucuses on February 22 and the South Carolina primary on February 29. And the most recent polls there shows Joe Biden with a big lead over Tom Steyer and Bernie Sanders (South Carolina, taken end of January) and Biden and Sanders in a virtual tie (Nevada, early January).

Are those polls outdated? Absolutely.

Let’s start with Nevada, where the powerful Culinary Workers union is going after Sanders over his Medicare for All plan, claiming it would “end” their generous health coverage. Unions didn’t matter much in Iowa and New Hampshire but they do out there, and their attack on Sanders could really hurt him. (Interestingly, the Culinary Workers go easier on Warren for advocating a much slower reform rollout than Sanders done, the same mitigation that seems to have ticked off left-wing voters in Iowa and New Hampshire.)

And while Bernie also faces an uphill battle in South Carolina, where he was swamped by Hillary Clinton four years ago, that state is not a slam dunk for Biden either. His wide lead among crucial black voters there has been dwindling, not a good sign. The frontrunners better watch out in both of these next two states for Tom Steyer, who’s been pouring in resources and dominating the airwaves.

We just saw Amy Klobuchar come out of nowhere to finish a strong third in New Hampshire – could that continue in these upcoming contests?

To stay competitive you’ve got to have the three m’s – money, message and momentum. Klobuchar’s got all three, as do Sanders and Pete Buttigieg, and history shows us that can pay off fast in Nevada and South Carolina.

Keep in mind:
* In 1992, Bill Clinton won only one of the first ten states he competed in.
* In 2008, Barack Obama didn’t establish a clear lead over Hillary Clinton until after Super Tuesday.
* And in 2016, his razor-thin loss in Iowa and landslide victory in New Hampshire didn’t help Sanders in Nevada and South Carolina, where Hillary Clinton won easily.

Sanders’ showings in the first two states have been impressive, and it’s a fact that the winners there often go on to win the nomination – often, but not always. This remains a large, diverse field offering voters a confusing array of options, with the unlimited spending and aggressive TV ads of Michael Bloomberg looming in the distance.

There are ten days to go until Nevada’s results are in, and in this race, that might as well be a lifetime.

Jon Keller

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