Sanders dominated among Latinos and young voters, entrance polls showed. But he was broadly successful across demographic groups — reaching parity with his rivals among moderate voters.
Still, Sanders is far from clinching the Democratic nomination. A second-place finish in Nevada could prevent Joe Biden‘s standing from further weakening next week in South Carolina, where the former vice president is hoping his support among black voters will carry his campaign to victory. And former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg‘s $434 million of television advertisements looms large on Super Tuesday, when 14 states vote on March 3.
But Sanders has the largest grassroots army, demonstrated a diverse coalition in Nevada, has more money in his campaign bank account than anyone who isn’t a billionaire and has a head start in California and Texas, two Super Tuesday states.
The Vermont senator answered some major questions he faced Saturday. Perhaps most important among them: He won five of the seven casino caucus sites — revealing that members of the powerful 60,000-member Culinary Union broadly backed him, despite the union leadership opposing Sanders because they favor the special health care plan they’d negotiated over his “Medicare for All” proposal.
Here are six takeaways from the Nevada caucuses:
Nevada gave Sanders more than a clear victory on Saturday — it delivered a striking validation of his campaign’s strategy.
In a state with a Latino population of about 30% and a strong base of organized labor, no one else in the field came close.
The results here suggest that Sanders also is poised for similar successes in Super Tuesday states like California, the primary’s crown jewel, and Texas, another delegate-rich state where the Latino vote could be decisive.
Sanders was so confident in a Nevada victory that he left the state to campaign in California on Friday and then spent Saturday hopscotching around Texas, with stops in El Paso and San Antonio. On Sunday, he will hold a rally in Austin.
Next up on the primary calendar, though, is South Carolina, another state where Sanders has shown signs of gaining steam in recent polling. A strong finish in the Palmetto State, where Hillary Clinton blew him out in 2016, could begin to clear the field even before the Super Tuesday states weigh in.
It’s still a jumble behind the clear Democratic front-runner, with Biden and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg jousting for second place as results continue to come in.
In speeches from Las Vegas on Saturday, Biden and Buttigieg previewed new attacks on Sanders.
Biden referenced a report that Sanders had considered a primary challenge to former President Barack Obama. “I promise you, I wasn’t talking about running in the Democratic primary against him in 2012,” he said.
Buttigieg’s entire speech was a contrast with Sanders. “We can prioritize either ideological purity or inclusive victory,” he said. “We can either call people names online or we can call them into our movement. We can either tighten a narrow and hardcore base or open the tent to a new, broad, big-hearted American coalition.”
But neither speech solved the Sanders opponents’ biggest problem: It remains a large, and largely bunched together, field, with Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar also siphoning votes away from the moderate candidates and Bloomberg waiting to make his mark on Super Tuesday. Unless those opposed to Sanders coalesce around a clear alternative — and quickly — his march to the Democratic nomination could be impossible to stop.
Biden claimed Saturday in Las Vegas that he’s “alive and we’re coming back and we’re going to win.”
But make no mistake: This is not going well for the former vice president.
He’s now finished fourth in Iowa, fifth in New Hampshire and is hoping for a distant second in Nevada. In three runs for the Democratic presidential nomination over 32 years, Biden still has never won a state. One illustration of how far his fall has been: In nearly every poll of Nevada in 2019 and January 20