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Sanders Wins In Nevada Caucuses, Klobuchar fades

Sanders Wins In Nevada Caucuses, Klobuchar fades Click to Enlarge Photo: Associated Press

(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.

As Sanders celebrated Saturday night, Joe Biden was in second place with votes still being counted. Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren trailed further behind. They were all seeking any possible momentum heading into next-up South Carolina and then Super Tuesday on March 3.

Nevada’s caucuses 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 for Texas, which offers one of the biggest delegate troves in just 10 days on Super Tuesday.

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.

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

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.

Also still in the fight: Billionaire Tom Steyer, who spent more than $12 million on Nevada television and Minnesota Sen. Amy 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.

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.

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.

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Peoples and Slodysko reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Alexandra Jaffe in Washington, Christina A. Cassidy in Atlanta and Yvonne Gonzalez, Ken Ritter and Nicholas Riccardi in Nevada contributed to this report.

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