Broad-based support across age, racial and ideological groups propelled Bernie Sanders to a dominant victory in Nevada’s Democratic caucuses, tightening his grip on the front-runner spot in the race to find a challenger to President Donald Trump.
Joe Biden, the former vice president, appeared headed to a badly needed second-place finish in Nevada after poor showings earlier this month in the first two nominating contests in the Democratic presidential race ahead of the November 3 election.
Sanders’ triumph on Saturday in the first racially diverse state in the campaign suggested he was reaching a broader coalition of Democratic voters with his unapologetic message of social and economic justice, including his signature pledge to provide universal healthcare for all Americans.
For Biden and other moderates who argue Sanders is too liberal to beat Trump and who have been trying to blunt his momentum, however, the Nevada results made the job much harder.
“We have put together a multi-generational, multiracial coalition that is going to not only win in Nevada, it’s going to sweep the country,” Sanders, a US senator from Vermont and self-described democratic socialist, told cheering supporters in San Antonio, Texas.
With 50% of the precincts reporting, Sanders had 47% of the county convention delegates in Nevada. Biden was a distant second to Sanders with 19%, but ahead of former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, in third with 15%.
“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 on Saturday night.
Senator Elizabeth Warren, who had been looking to jump-start her campaign after poor finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire, trailed in a disappointing fourth with 10% in Nevada. Senator Amy Klobuchar and activist billionaire Tom Steyer were well back at 5% and 4%, respectively.
Buttigieg cautioned Democrats about nominating Sanders, portraying him as an ideologue who would divide the country and lose to Trump.
“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.
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