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Sanders Wins Nevada Caucuses           02/23 09:41

   Bernie Sanders scored a commanding victory in Nevada's presidential 
caucuses, cementing his status as the Democrats' national front-runner but 
escalating tensions over whether he's too liberal to defeat President Donald 
Trump. 

   LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Bernie Sanders scored a commanding victory in Nevada's 
presidential caucuses, cementing his status as the Democrats' national 
front-runner but escalating tensions over whether he's too liberal to defeat 
President Donald Trump. 

   Joe Biden was a distant second, followed by Pete Buttigieg in third and 
Elizabeth Warren in fourth, with Amy Klobuchar and Tom Steyer in a close race 
for fifth. They all are pledging to stay in the race as the primary moves on to 
South Carolina this coming Saturday, with the Super Tuesday states voting on 
March 3. 

   Nevada's caucuses on Saturday were the first chance for White House hopefuls 
to demonstrate appeal to a diverse group of voters in a state far more 
representative of the country as a whole than Iowa and New Hampshire. Sanders, 
a 78-year Vermont senator and self-described democratic socialist, won by 
rallying his fiercely loyal base and tapping into support from Nevada's large 
Latino community. 

   In a show of confidence, Sanders left Nevada on Saturday for Texas, which 
offers one of the biggest delegate troves in just 10 days on Super Tuesday. 

   "We are bringing our people together," he declared. "In Nevada we have just 
brought together a multigenerational, multiracial coalition which is not only 
going to win in Nevada, it's going to sweep this country." 

   Saturday's win built on Sanders' victory earlier this month in the New 
Hampshire primary. He essentially tied for first place in the Iowa caucuses 
with Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who has sought to 
position himself as an ideological counter to Sanders' unabashedly progressive 
politics.

   But for all the energy and attention devoted to the first three states, they 
award only a tiny fraction of the delegates needed to capture the nomination. 
After South Carolina, the contest becomes national in scope, putting a premium 
on candidates who have the resources to compete in states as large as 
California and Texas.

   While Sanders' victory in Nevada encouraged his supporters, it only deepened 
concern among establishment-minded Democratic leaders who fear he is too 
extreme to defeat Trump. Sanders for decades has been calling for 
transformative policies to address inequities in politics and the economy, none 
bigger than his signature "Medicare for All" health care plan that would 
replace the private insurance system with a government-run universal program. 

   Trump gloated on social media, continuing his weeks-long push to sow discord 
between Sanders and his Democratic rivals. 

   "Looks like Crazy Bernie is doing well in the Great State of Nevada. Biden & 
the rest look weak," Trump tweeted. "Congratulations Bernie, & don't let them 
take it away from you!"

   Buttigieg congratulated Sanders, too, but then launched an aggressive verbal 
assault on the senator as too divisive.

   "Before we rush to nominate Senator Sanders in our one shot to take on this 
president, let's take a sober look at what is at stake for our party, for our 
values and for those with so much to lose," he said. "Senator Sanders believes 
in an inflexible, ideological revolution that leaves out most Democrats, not to 
mention most Americans."

   For Biden, a second place finish in Nevada could be the lifeline he needed 
to convince skeptics he still has a path to the nomination as the primary moves 
to more diverse states. He took aim at Sanders and billionaire Mike Bloomberg, 
who wasn't on the Nevada ballot, but has emerged as a threat to Biden in 
contests that begin next month.

   "I ain't a socialist. I'm not a plutocrat. I'm a Democrat," Biden declared.

   Warren, who desperately needed a spark to revive her stalled bid, ignored 
Sanders and instead took a shot at Bloomberg's height as she thanked Nevada 
"for keeping me in the fight." 

   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 Steyer, who spent more than $12 million 
on Nevada television and Minnesota Sen. 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. 


(KR)

 
 
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