Hillary Clinton will gladly take her win today in Nevada. But she had far more to lose than Barack Obama did. Obama's overwhelming African-American support in South Carolina makes the state a firewall for him, and thus there was little chance that he would go into February 5 gimpy from having lost two states in a row. Not so for Hillary, who, with a defeat today and another (probable) one next Saturday, would have faced another round of talk that her campaign was in crisis.
Hillary's win today is also mitigated by the fact that people don't seem to know quite how to feel about Nevada. For one thing the media is more familiar with South Carolina's place in the campaign narrative, and I don't get the sense from the early television coverage, at least, that people are treating this as a landmark event. (That might explain a helpful Clinton campaign press release this evening entitled, "What Does Nevada Mean?" and filled with recent quotes from media pundits predicting that a win today would be "vital" or "huge" for the winner.) And now the Obama campaign is crowing that Obama won more delegates than Hillary did (13-12). That won't be enough to have a major impact on what's clearly being spun as a Hillary win--and on a conference call this evening even Obama campaign manager David Plouffe stopped short of declaring an Obama win, saying that was for the media to decide. But does muddy the waters a bit.
Fundamentally, then, I see a disaster averted for Hillary--but with Obama alive and well. In the unlikely event of a Hillary victory in South Carolina, Obama could face a crisis of his own. More likely, we are headed to February 5 and quite possibly beyond in what looks like a long war of attrition.