This article titled “Clinton regains momentum after win over Sanders in Nevada” was written by Paul Lewis, Chris McGreal and Maria L La Ganga in Las Vegas, and Sam Levin in Reno, for theguardian.com on Saturday 20th February 2016 22.20 UTC
Hillary Clinton defeated Bernie Sanders in the Nevada caucuses on Saturday, in a much-needed victory that nonetheless revealed vulnerabilities in her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.
With the majority of precincts reporting, Clinton had 52.7% of the vote, to Sanders’ 47.2%. After a race that initially appeared to be neck-and-neck, the result was called by the Associated Press shortly after 2.20pm local time.
The former secretary of state will seize on her win in the desert state as the start of her comeback in the Democratic race, in which she was first held to an effective tie by Sanders in Iowa and then was easily defeated by him in New Hampshire.
Also on Saturday, the Republicans have been voting in South Carolina, where Donald Trump is expected to win, although his poll lead has narrowed in recent days.
There were ecstatic scenes at the Clinton victory party. “Some may have doubted us but we never doubted each other,” Clinton told supporters at the Caesars Palace hotel in Las Vegas.
She congratulated Sanders on a hard-fought race, but added a barely-concealed criticism of her adversary. “The truth is, we aren’t a single-issue country,” she said. “We need more than a plan for the big banks; the middle class needs a raise.”
“I am on my way to Texas, Bill is on his way to Colorado,” she said, in a nod to the slew of crucial primary contests due to take place on 1 March, known as Super Tuesday. “The fight is on, the future that we want is within our grasp.”
The reference in her speech to Bill Clinton coincided with the former president’s increasing role in the family campaign to retake the White House. In a pointed campaign moment in Nevada, Bill Clinton locked horns with Sanders, implicitly comparing his populism to that of the conservative Tea Party. The Vermont senator hit back, attacking the former president’s trade deals, Wall Street deregulation and “so-called welfare reforms”.
In his concession speech on Saturday, Sanders struck an upbeat tone, claiming “the wind is at our backs” despite the defeat in Nevada – pointing out how far his opponent’s lead in the Nevada polls had shrunk. “Five weeks ago, we were 25 points behind in the polls,” he said. “We have made some real progress.”
He added: “I believe on Super Tuesday we have got an excellent chance to win many of those states.”
Clinton’s win comes with at least 19 of Nevada’s 35 delegates, adding to her already significant lead in that count, mostly from the support of superdelegates.
The Democratic race will first head to South Carolina, where Clinton has enjoyed a formidable 20-point lead in recent polls, and where her backing from African Americans, a key demographic in the state, is stronger than her support from Latinos.
The Clinton camp hoped that her disappointing showing in the predominantly white early nominating states would quickly be erased once the nomination process moved to states like Nevada and South Carolina, which have a more mixed ethnic and racial makeup.
That turned out to be only partly true in Nevada. Even though Clinton clinched the vote by a comfortable margin, NBC exit poll data indicated she had actually lost the vote of the state’s key demographic of Latino voters. Sanders won 53% of the Latino vote, according to the sample data, compared to Clinton’s 45%. That is a worrying result for Clinton, who has staked her campaign on the promise of winning minority voters.
Some Latino voters, particularly younger people and low-wage workers, appeared to be opting for Sanders in the final weeks of the campaign. In the final 48 hours of the campaign, the Clinton camp ramped up a negative push against Sanders, questioning his commitment to Latinos and portraying the former secretary of state as the obvious heir to the diverse coalition that elected Barack Obama.
In the end Clinton’s strength among women, older voters and African Americans – as well as those who said they were looking for experience in their nominee – proved decisive.
“I love that she’s a woman,” said Darlene Gerson, an attorney caucusing for Clinton at Del Webb middle school in Henderson, in southeast Las Vegas. “I agree with the vast majority of her views. She knows what she’s doing. If anyone can compromise, she can. She’s hugely more electable.”
Nevada’s result lends weight to that view, and shifts momentum behind Clinton’s campaign at a critical juncture.
For the Sanders campaign, Saturday’s result in Nevada will be considered a setback, but not one without positive signs, having significantly dented the lead of a candidate once considered the party’s presumed nominee.
In a repeat of Iowa and New Hampshire, Sanders had his strongest showing amid young people, who have flocked to his promise of tuition-free college and a platform of radical political and economic change in America.
In the northern city of Reno, where Sanders performed more strongly, there was overwhelming support for the senator at the University of Nevada caucus site.
“I know that the campus culture here is all about Bernie Sanders,” said Olivia Komanduri, an 18-year-old student supporting Clinton, adding she was disappointed but not surprised that she lost there. “They love the idea of a political revolution, they want someone who is different like Bernie, but they don’t understand that Hillary is different, too.”
The Democratic race still remains tight, with Clinton and Sanders each having won one state and effectively tying in the other.
But after a disappointing start to her 2016 campaign, Clinton will claim momentum is now on her side. In addition to her lead in South Carolina, which holds its Democratic primary later this month, Clinton appears to be ahead in other states voting in early March.
She is leading in 10 of the 12 states that will hold Democratic primaries between 1 and 8 March, benefiting from overwhelming support of black voters, according to a Public Policy Polling survey released this week.
“Senator Sanders has run a very good campaign,” said Jennifer Palmieri, the Clinton campaign’s director of communications. “He speaks very passionately to a lot of the anger – justifiably so – that people feel here. But we think that the longer the campaign goes on the more apparent it becomes as she makes her argument that she has solutions that will actually work and make a difference in people’s lives for all the barriers that hold them back.”
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