Last Chance for Final Arguments in South Carolina and Nevada

Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 8.17.53 AMMAGGIE HABERMAN

Friday, February 19, 2016

Good Friday morning.

For the third time in three weeks, voters will head to polls and caucus sites on Saturday to choose a winner among Republicans in South Carolina and among Democrats in Nevada.

The parallel races are both marks of the utterly fluid, outsider-driven nature of the two contests at this point. In South Carolina, the leader in the public polls, Donald J. Trump, still holds an edge despite a closing argument that was spent praising the fallen Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and arguing with Pope Francis. Senators Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas are vying to come in ahead of each other, and as close to Mr. Trump as possible.

In Nevada, where an influential labor group has decided to sit out the Democratic caucuses, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont spent months chipping away at Hillary Clintons edge in a state she won in 2008. If she wins, it will give her a bounce heading into the Democratic primary in South Carolina on Feb. 27. But if Mr. Sanders wins, he will have the same bounce, along with proof that his momentum from winning New Hampshire remains intact.

As for the Republican contest, it is only now becoming clear that Mr. Trump, a thrice-married billionaire who espouses the very “New York values” that Mr. Cruz denounced for effect in a debate, could win the Southern state. After that comes Nevada, where Republicans caucus on Tuesday, which will be a test of Mr. Trump’s organizational muscle.