Sanders keeps string of victories alive with big win in Nevada

Christopher Wilson
Senior Writer

The Associated Press declared Sen. Bernie Sanders the winner of Nevada’s Democratic caucuses, the third popular-vote victory in as many primary contests by the race’s current frontrunner.

“I am delighted to bring you some pretty good news,” said Sanders, speaking at a rowdy campaign event in San Antonio, Texas. “I think all of you know we won the popular vote in Iowa. We won the New Hampshire primary. And according to three networks and the AP, we have now won the Nevada caucus.”

“Let me thank the people of Nevada for their support,” he continued. “In Nevada we have just put  together a multigenerational, multiracial coalition that is not only going to win in Nevada, it’s going to sweep this country.”

The Sanders campaign has focused on Hispanic outreach, and according to entrance polls, it worked in Nevada. CNN reported that 54 percent of Hispanic voters said they chose Sanders, with former Vice President Joe Biden a distant second at 13 percent. Those numbers are in line with a national Morning Consult poll released last week that showed Sanders with  the support of 48 percent of Hispanic Democrats.

Polling in the state had been sparse, but multiple recent surveys showed Sanders with double-digit leads after trailing Biden by nine points as recently as Jan. 1, according to the Real Clear Politics polling average of Nevada. Four years ago, Sanders lost the state to Hillary Clinton by five percent, but this time around his campaign flooded the state with thousands of volunteers that the campaign said knocked on 500,000-plus doors.

Previously, Sanders won the popular votes in Iowa and New Hampshire, although former Mayor Pete Buttigieg took a slight delegate lead into Saturday. As caucus results were coming in earlier Saturday, Sanders was holding an event in El Paso, Texas, sticking to his stump speech and turning his attention to the March 3 Super Tuesday states.

The race for a distant second was tight between Biden and Buttigieg, with Sen. Elizabeth Warren in fourth. Billionaire Tom Steyer, who spent millions in Nevada, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar were struggling to crack double digits.

Sen. Bernie Sanders greets supporters in the crowd outside a campaign rally in El Paso, Texas, on the day of the Nevada caucuses. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

Last week, Sanders was drawn into a war of words with Nevada’s powerful culinary union, which represents thousands of Las Vegas hospitality workers. Local 226 sent out a flier to members stating that Sanders’s single-payer Medicare for All plan would end their union-provided health care. Sanders said his plan would assure coverage at least as good as what members have now. The union didn’t endorse an alternative, instead throwing its support behind its “goals.”

Sanders won almost all of the casino sites, which are set up for the union members to vote during their Saturday shifts. CNN reported that caucus entrance polls showed 62 percent of Nevadans support Medicare for All, and CBS News’ entrance poll showed Sanders winning more than a third of caucus-goers who identified themselves as living in a union household.

Nearly 75,000 people voted early, before Wednesday night’s debate. It was the first year the Silver State allowed early voting, and the early-vote total nearly matched 2016’s total turnout of 84,000. On Saturday, the Nevada Democratic Party announced that more than 10,000 Nevadans had registered as Democrats during the early voting period. The amount of early voting that occurred before the debate might have hurt Warren, who turned in a strong performance and received a fundraising boost.

The Iowa debacle earlier this month provided a warning to Nevada Democrats, who ditched an app developed by the same company that created the Hawkeye State’s faulty reporting system and replaced it with 2,000 iPads equipped with Cisco Systems security software. National and local leaders lowered expectations earlier this week, declining to guarantee results on Saturday and stating that the most important thing was accuracy.

Nevada Democrats provided three results: The initial count of voters’ preferences at each individual precinct, the final count after candidates who had failed to reach a 15 percent viability threshold were eliminated from contention and their supporters had to realign, and then delegate equivalents from each individual caucus site. Sanders won all three tallies.

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