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Feb. 23, 2020, 12:09 a.m. EST

Sanders wins Nevada caucuses, takes national Democratic lead

As Sanders celebrated, Joe Biden was in second place with votes still being counted. Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren trailed further behind

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By Associated Press

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Rallying supporters in Seattle, she said she wanted to talk about “a big threat — not a tall one, but a big one: Michael Bloomberg.”

Also still in the fight: Billionaire Tom Steyer, who spent more than $12 million on Nevada television and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who hoped to prove her strong New Hampshire finish was no fluke.

Klobuchar, campaigning in her home state of Minnesota Saturday night, claimed Nevada success no matter her poor showing.

“As usual I think we have exceeded expectations,” she said.

The first presidential contest in the West tested the candidates’ strength with black and Latino voters for the first time in 2020. Nevada’s population aligns more with the U.S. as a whole, compared with Iowa and New Hampshire: 29% Latino, 10% black and 9% Asian American and Pacific Islander.

Bloomberg, the former New York mayor who dominated the political conversation this week after a poor debate-stage debut, wasn’t on the ballot. He’s betting everything on a series of delegate-rich states that begin voting next month.

The stakes were high for Nevada Democrats to avoid a repeat of the chaos in the still-unresolved Iowa caucuses, and it appeared Saturday’s contest was largely successful.

Unlike state primaries and the November election, which are run by government officials, caucuses are overseen by state parties.

Nevada Democrats sought to minimize problems by creating multiple redundancies in their reporting system, relying on results called in by phone, a paper worksheet filled out by caucus organizers, a photo of that worksheet sent in by text message and electronic results captured with a Google form.

In addition, it appeared Nevada Democrats were able to successfully navigate a complicated process for adding early voting to the caucus process. Nearly 75,000 people cast early ballots over a four-day period, and the party was able to process those in time for Saturday so they could be integrated into the in-person vote.

At the Bellagio casino caucus site, 41-year-old Christian Nielsen, a scuba diver for the Cirque du Soleil show “O,” said he backed Sanders because he believes the country needs a “major change in the White House.”

“We need somebody in the White House who has been on the right side of history for their entire career, somebody who stands with the working class, and will make things more fair for everybody,” Nielsen said.

The Democrats’ 2020 nomination fight shifted beyond Nevada even before the final results were known.

Only Biden, Buttigieg and Steyer were still in the state when news of Sanders’ victory was announced.

Sanders and Klobuchar spent the night in Super Tuesday states, and Buttigieg was headed to a third, Virginia. Warren, who began Saturday in Las Vegas, was to finish the day in Washington state, which hosts its election on March 10 but has already begun offering early voting.

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