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Bernie Sanders has cemented his frontrunner status in the race to choose the Democratic nominee who will face President Donald Trump in November’s election.

Sanders is projected to win the Nevada caucuses by a wide margin.

The Vermont senator gave a victory speech at Cowboys Dancehall in San Antonio, Texas on Saturday evening.

“In Nevada we have just put together a multi-generational, multi-racial coalition, which is not only going to win in Nevada, it’s going to sweep this country.” Sanders told his cheering supporters. 

He said that he is feeling confident about his chances in Texas too – one of the 14 states that votes on Super Tuesday on March 3.

The win in Nevada will further boost the front-running candidacy of Sanders after his strong showings in Iowa and New Hampshire earlier this month.

Biden in second place

Sanders had 46% of the county convention delegates in Nevada with about 22% of the precincts reported.

Biden was a distant second to Sanders with 24%, but ahead of former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, in third with 14%.

“The press is ready to declare people dead quickly, but we’re alive and we’re coming back and we’re gonna win,” Biden told supporters in Las Vegas.

Senator Elizabeth Warren was trailing in a disappointing fourth with about 8% in Nevada, where voters poured into more than 250 sites around the state. Senator Amy Klobuchar and activist billionaire Tom Steyer were well back at around 4%.

Buttigieg goes after Sanders

Buttigieg cautioned Democrats about nominating Sanders, a self-identified democratic socialist that he portrayed as an ideologue.

“We can prioritize either ideological purity or inclusive victory. 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,” Buttigieg told supporters in Las Vegas.


Latino voters support Sanders

In Nevada, Latinos make up about 19 percent of eligible voters. Entrance polls showed that just over half of them backed Sanders, or “Tio Bernie” as he has been nicknamed. 

Sanders’ progressive policy platform speaks to Latinos’ core interests: Medicare-for-all, a $15 minimum wage, immigration reform and the elimination of student debt.

Sanders won the largest share of the union vote

In the final result of a caucus at the famed Bellagio hotel on the Las Vegas strip, Sanders finished with 76 votes, Biden had 45 and no other candidate ended with a vote.

Workers at the Bellagio, who are members of the Culinary Workers Union, streamed out of the caucus after backing Sanders despite their leadership expressing reservations about his healthcare plan.

“I went for Bernie. I’m not big into politics, but I like the things he’s going for: student loan debt, schools, free healthcare,” said Aleiza Smith, 22, a housekeeper at the Bellagio.

Larger turnout than for Obama in 2008?

Four days of early voting in Nevada this week drew more than 75,000 Democrats, more than half first-time voters, putting the party in position to surpass the turnout record of 118,000 in 2008, when Barack Obama’s candidacy electrified the party.

But those early votes had to be counted along with those cast on Saturday, complicating the process.

Bloomberg looms in race

Biden is counting on a strong showing in South Carolina, which has a large bloc of black voters, while the Super Tuesday states will bring former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has not been competing in the four early voting states but has been rising in polls, into the race.

“The Nevada results reinforce the reality that this fragmented field is putting Bernie Sanders on pace to amass an insurmountable delegate lead,” Bloomberg campaign manager Kevin Sheekey said in a statement.

On Twitter, Trump appeared to be enjoying the Democratic race.

“Looks like Crazy Bernie is doing well in the Great State of Nevada. Biden & the rest look weak, & no way Mini Mike,” Trump wrote, the last a reference to Bloomberg.

Nevada caucus officials and voters at multiple sites on Saturday reported voting rules confusion, calculation glitches and delays in reporting tallies – despite efforts to avoid the issues that plagued Iowa’s caucuses earlier this month.

The third state on the primary calendar was the first to reflect the kind of diverse electorate that will vote across 14 states on Super Tuesday, on March 3. 

If Sanders comes out of Super Tuesday with a sizable delegate lead, it will become very difficult for any of the other candidates to catch up.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)


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