UPDATE: After winning the Nevada caucuses by a wide margin, Bernie Sanders told supporters that his campaign is proving that it is building a robust coalition to defeat President Donald Trump in November.
“We have just put together a multi-generational, multiracial coalition, which is not only going to win in Nevada, it is going to sweep this country,” Sanders said at a rally in San Antonio.
In the early returns from Nevada, his closest rival, Joe Biden, predicted that he was on his way to a comeback.
“The press is ready to declare people dead quickly. Well, we are alive,” Biden told supporters.
He took aim at Sanders and Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire who has spent hundreds of millions of his own money in the race yet won’t be on the ballot until Super Tuesday, March 3.
“I’m a Democrat for a simple reason: I ain’t a socialist. I ain’t a plutocrat. I’m a Democrat, and I’m proud of it.”
Pete Buttigieg, running in third place, warned of a consequences of nominating Sanders.
“Before we rush to nominate Senator Sanders as our one shot to take on this president, let us take a look at the consequences — for our party, for our values and for those with the most at stake.”
He attacked Sanders for his Medicare for All plan, as well as for seeing capitalism as “the root of all evil.”
“Senator Sanders believes in an inflexible, ideological revolution that leaves out most Democrats, not to mention most Americans,” Buttigieg said.
PREVIOUSLY: Bernie Sanders was projected to win the Nevada caucuses by a significant margin on Saturday, accelerating his momentum in the race for the Democratic nomination against splintered support for his rivals.
The Associated Press and other outlets declared him the winner at about 7:30 p.m. ET.
Lagging well behind in early returns were Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg, although they were just about the 15% threshold to garner delegates from the state.
Entrance polls showed Sanders doing particularly well with Hispanic voters and young voters, but he also led among white voters and even among voters who call themselves moderate or conservative, according to MSNBC. An CNN exit poll showed Sanders, the oldest candidate in the race, getting an even greater percentage of younger voters — almost seven out of ten.
On the Las Vegas Strip, Sanders won caucuses at the Bellagio, Mandalay Bay, Rio and Wynn hotels, according to Las Vegas Independent editor Jon Ralston, significant given that the union that represents many hotel workers, the Culinary Workers Union, refused to endorse in the race.
At a rally in El Paso, Texas before the results came in, Sanders initially gave a message of unity that focused on defeating President Donald Trump.
“When I look out at this audience, I have absolute confidence that we can create a government that is based on compassion, is based on love, is based on truth, not what we have now of greed corruption and lies,” Sanders told the crowd. MSNBC carried much of his speech, while the other news networks covered other aspects of the caucus. The Sanders campaign in recent weeks has complained about the tenor of MSNBC’s coverage. Earlier on Saturday, campaign manager Faiz Shakir wrote sarcastically on Twitter, “All day long, MSNBC’s pundit panels have been focused on the biggest question of the day: Who will finish second in Nevada?”
Sanders’ campaign has drawn larger and enthusiastic crowds in the early states, as well as an army of celebrity supporters young and old. On Friday, the campaign sent out a video endorsement from 94-year-old Dick Van Dyke, who also campaigned for him in 2016.
But his potential nomination has stirred up a great deal of angst in the Democratic establishment, as well as a number of entertainment industry donors who fear an electoral meltdown by running a democratic socialist at the top of the ticket.
Sanders sent a tweet on Friday that rankled some Democrats as divisive. He wrote, “I’ve got news for the Republican establishment. I’ve got news for the Democratic establishment. They can’t stop us.”
James Carville, who has warned Democrats of nominating Sanders. He said that it was foolish to believe that Sanders can greatly expand the electorate by reaching new voters.
“When people say that, they are as stupid to a political scientist as a climate denier is to an atmospheric scientist,” he said.
Carville added, “We’re in a whole new ballgame here, and this game could end a little after mid March, and some of these candidates are going to have to make some really hard decisions about who stays in and who gets out and where we go from here.”
The South Carolina primary is Feb. 29, but three days later is Super Tuesday, when California and 13 other states go to the polls. More than one-third of delegates will be picked on March 3.
Fox News made an early projection, hours before the AP, that Sanders would win the caucuses, based on a determination of its decision desk. Mercedes Schlapp, a former White House official working on Trump’s reelection campaign, said that the results were further evidence that the Democrats were in disarray and would have a brokered convention.
As there was in Iowa, there were still plenty of complaints about the confusing nature of the process. MSNBC even had “spotters,” those fanned out at caucus sites, to gather results on their own, as reporters waited for the officials returns to come in from the Nevada Democratic Party. The network reported on a Reno caucus site that broke a tie by doing a card draw.
“It is an antiquated system, it is not fair and it needs to stop,” a woman supporter of Amy Klobuchar told MSNBC at a Henderson caucus site, where there was some disarray about the process.
As it became clear of Sanders’ win, other campaigns began to position themselves for more pointed attacks on his campaign. Buttigieg’s campaign sent out a fundraising email in which it pointed to a Washington Post story that intelligence agencies had briefed Sanders that Russia was actively engaged in trying to boost his presidential bid. While Sanders told reporters that Russia should not meddle in the election, he also made a swipe at the Washington Post, suggesting that their timing was questionable so close to the caucuses.
“There’s nothing progressive about attacking a free press or fueling conspiracy theories. In fact, it’s undemocratic,” Buttigieg’s campaign said in the email.